Parents' Vicarious Shame and Guilt Responses to Children's Wrong-doings
Committee ChairSchmader, Toni
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractContemporary theory on moral emotion distinguishes shame and guilt, and differentiates the cognitive antecedents and motivational consequences of each (Tangney & Fischer, 1995). Recent theory and research has expanded these ideas to recognize that others' negative actions can cause shame and guilt vicariously (Lickel et al, 2005). Applying these models, the present research tested factors that differentiate a parent's shame or guilt reaction to the misdeeds of their children and the relationship between emotion and discipline strategies. In Study 1, parents recalled their child's worst transgression and rated its effect on their thoughts and feelings. Results revealed that publicity appraisals uniquely predicted shame, as mediated by image threat. In contrast, perceptions that one has less control than they feel parents should have over their children (interdependence discrepancy) uniquely predicted guilt. In Study 2, mothers rated what they would think, feel, and do if their child hit another child in front of a neighbor who was described as supportive, neutral, or judgmental. We also primed a sense of control deficiency using an ease of recall paradigm. Results revealed that a critical observer elevated ratings of shame compared to control; although a supportive observer did not act as a buffer from shame as expected. Guilt was higher for mothers with chronically high ratings of control deficiency only when they were also primed to feel they lack the ability to influence their children, and not when they were primed with a sense of control. Across both studies, guilt predicted more adaptive discipline patterns, whereas shame predicted less adaptive discipline. Implications for the role of self-conscious emotion in family dynamics are discussed.