THE UNEQUAL EXPERIENCE OF INDEBTEDNESS: AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF DEBT ON THE LOWER CLASS
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThere exists ample research regarding the associations between low social class and negative psychological consequences including increased risk of anxiety, depression, and various other factors. In this paper, we seek to investigate the role of debt-related guilt and shame as a driving force in the negative relationship between social class and stress. In an exploratory correlational study, we found that lower-class individuals report experiencing relatively more debt-related guilt and shame and more general stress than their higher-class counterparts. Additionally, we found that debt-related guilt and shame partially mediates the relationship between social class and stress (Study 1). We also found experimental evidence that reminders of debt increase feelings of guilt and shame for lower social class individuals. We found evidence of a moderated mediation in which the relationship between social class and anxiety was mediated by debt-related guilt and shame, but only when debt was made salient. When debt was made salient, lower social class individuals tended to report significantly more debt-related guilt and shame and more anxiety (Study 2). The results of these two studies begin to explicate the experience of indebtedness for lower-class individuals and provide evidence that debt-related guilt and shame may play a significant role in the oft-observed social class mental health disparities.