Faces of Shame: Implications for Self-Esteem, Emotion Regulation, Aggression, and Well-Being

J Psychol. 2017 Feb 17;151(2):171-184. doi: 10.1080/00223980.2016.1248809. Epub 2016 Nov 18.


There is an increasing interest in psychological research on shame experiences and their associations with other aspects of psychological functioning and well-being, as well as with possible maladaptive outcomes. In an attempt to confirm and extend previous knowledge on this topic, we investigated the nomological network of shame experiences in a large community sample (N = 380; 66.1% females), adopting a multidimensional conceptualization of shame. Females reported higher levels of shame (in particular, bodily and behavioral shame), guilt, psychological distress, emotional reappraisal, and hostility. Males had higher levels of self-esteem, emotional suppression, and physical aggression. Shame feelings were associated with low self-esteem, hostility, and psychological distress in a consistent way across gender. Associations between characterological shame and emotional suppression, as well as between bodily shame and anger occurred only among females. Moreover, characterological and bodily shame added to the prediction of low self-esteem, hostility, and psychological distress above and beyond the influence of trait shame. Finally, among females, emotional suppression mediated the influence of characterological shame on hostility and psychological distress. These findings extend current knowledge on the nomological net surrounding shame experiences in everyday life, supporting the added value of a multidimensional conceptualization of shame feelings.

Keywords: Aggression; emotion regulation; experiences of shame scale; psychological distress; self-esteem; shame; suppression.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Self Concept*
  • Self-Control*
  • Shame*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Young Adult