Do Shame and Guilt Predict Antisocial Behavior in Late Adolescence? Findings From a Prospective Study

Jeffrey Stuewig, George Mason University
Laura McCloskey, Harvard School of Public Health

In criminology shame and guilt are often cited as two emotions that inhibit socially maladaptive behaviors. In psychology, however, important differences have been found between these two emotions and subsequent outcomes (Tangney, et. al., 1996). Self-reports of a variety of measures, including the Adolescent Shame Measure (ASM, Reimer, 1995), were collected in 1996-1997 as part of an ongoing longitudinal research study initiated in 1990 following 363 mother-child pairs. In addition, participants were again interviewed in 1998-1999 when the adolescents were on average 17 years old. Participants self-reported on several different measures of problem behavior including aggression, delinquency, and depression. Preliminary results show that when controlling for guilt, shame was prospectively related to higher levels of depression but had no relationship to aggression or delinquency. Conversely, when shame was controlled guilt was negatively related to aggression and delinquency. Analyses will be conducted to further explore these findings. Results will be discussed from both a psychological and criminological perspective.

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Updated 05/20/2006