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Inappropriate and Excessive Guilt: Instrument Validation and Developmental Differences in Relation to Depression

Abstract

Inappropriate or excessive guilt is listed as a symptom of depression by the American Psychiatric Association (1994). Although many measures of guilt have been developed, definitional and operational problems exist, especially in the application of such measures in childhood and adolescence. To address these problems, the current study introduces the Inappropriate and Excessive Guilt Scale (IEGS), assesses its validity for use with children and adolescents, and tests its relation to depression across development. From a sample of 370 children between 7 and 16 years old, results provided (1) evidence that items designed to assess inappropriate and excessive guilt converged onto a single underlying factor, (2) support for the convergent, discriminant, and construct validity of the IEGS in a general youth population, and (3) evidence of incremental validity of the IEGS over-and-above other measures of guilt. Results also supported the hypothesis that inappropriate and excessive guilt as well as negative cognitive errors become less normative and more depressotypic with age.

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Correspondence to David A. Cole.

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This research was supported by a gift from Patricia and Rodes Hart, by support from the Warren Family Foundation, and by NICHD 1R01HD059891

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Tilghman-Osborne, C., Cole, D.A. & Felton, J.W. Inappropriate and Excessive Guilt: Instrument Validation and Developmental Differences in Relation to Depression. J Abnorm Child Psychol 40, 607–620 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-011-9591-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-011-9591-6

Keywords

  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Child
  • Adolescent
  • Developmental psychopathology
  • Assessment
  • Inappropriate and excessive