The Relation between Childhood Parenting and Emerging Adults’ Experiences of Shame and Guilt

Abstract

Emerging adulthood (EA) is a pivotal transition period that can be impeded by shame’s global and disabling self-evaluations or supported by guilt’s adaptive self-evaluations. However, little is known about the factors contributing to EAs’ shame and guilt—the present study therefore explores the relation between parenting behaviors and EA shame and guilt (n = 213). Correlations between shame, guilt, and parenting behaviors, and hierarchical regressions found a positive relation between guilt-proneness and positive parenting and between shame-proneness and negative parenting. Results support the view that guilt and shame are two distinct constructs—with adaptive forms of guilt being associated with positive parenting and maladaptive self-evaluations of shame being related to negative parenting behaviors even during the EA years (18–29). The present study suggests that it may be beneficial for therapists to have clients explore how childhood parenting experiences can continue to play a role in their self-evaluations during their emerging adulthood years. In addition, results of the present study support the need for future clinical efforts to develop parent skills training initiatives that encourage parents to understand the consequences of both positive and negative actions and their potential impact on child developmental outcomes. Future studies should also assess whether temperament mediates the relationship between self-conscious emotions and parenting behaviors or if parenting behaviors and temperament each account for unique variance in self-conscious emotions. Developing a more complete understanding of socialization and developmental factors will further facilitate psychologists’ efforts to reduce the harmful impact of shame by replacing it with adaptive guilt.

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Acknowledgements

This article is based on the first author’s thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the doctoral degree from the Department of Psychology at Pace University. The first author would like to express her gratitude to Barbara Mowder and Weihua Niu for all their helpful comments along the way.

Author Contributions

G.M.: Designed and executed study, contributed to data analysis, co-authored manuscript. C.E.: Co-authored and edited manuscript, contributed to literature review research, corresponding author. A.G.: Contributed to data analysis and writing results, general editing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Chana Etengoff.

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Mintz, G., Etengoff, C. & Grysman, A. The Relation between Childhood Parenting and Emerging Adults’ Experiences of Shame and Guilt. J Child Fam Stud 26, 2908–2920 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-017-0778-5

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Keywords

  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Parenting
  • Emerging adulthood