Recent research and theory on shame and guilt has highlighted the “dark side to shame” in motivating harmful behavior. Although researchers recognize that cultural differences in shame exist, few studies have examined such differences. In this study of 130 fourth and fifth graders from the United States and 118 from Japan, cultural differences in anger, shame, guilt, and externalization of blame were examined. Consistent with predictions, compared to American children, Japanese children were more prone to experience shame and guilt and less likely to externalize blame. However, they also were more likely to experience anger. Directly, and indirectly through blaming, shame had much greater effects on anger among American than Japanese children. Whereas the effects were positive and significant among American children, they were negative and nonsignificant among Japanese children. Among Japanese children, it was guilt, rather than shame, that was related to anger, and in a negative manner. Findings suggest that in anger, the “dark side to shame” but also the more positive side to guilt, are moderated by cultural context.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Because there were no significant interaction effects for gender X country, and gender was not of primary interest in the current study, boys and girls were combined in subsequent analyses.
Ahmed, E. (2006). Understanding bullying from a shame management perspective: Finding from a 3 year follow-up study. Educational and Child Psychology, 23, 26–40.
Ahmed, E., & Braithwaite, V. (2006). Forgiveness, reconciliation, and shame: Three key variables in reducing school bullying. The Journal of Social Issues, 62, 347–370. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2006.00454.x.
Ban, T., & Cummings, W. K. (1999). Moral orientations of schoolchildren in the United States and Japan. Comparative Education Review, 43, 64–84. doi:10.1086/447545.
Baumeister, R. F., Stillwell, A. M., & Heatherton, T. F. (1994). Guilt: An interpersonal approach. Psychological Bulletin, 115, 243–267. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.115.2.243.
Bear, G. G., Manning, M. A., & Shiomi, K. (2006). Children’s reasoning about aggression: Differences between Japan and the United States and implications for school discipline. School Psychology Review, 35, 62–77.
Beautrais, A. L. (2006). Suicide in Asia. Crisis, 27, 55–57. doi:10.1027/0227-5910.27.2.55.
Boman, P., Curtis, D., Furlong, M. J., & Smith, D. C. (2006). Cross-validation and Rasch analyses of the Australian version of the Multidimensional School Anger Inventory—Revised. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 24, 225–242. doi:10.1177/0734282906288472.
Booker, A. L., Hoffschmidt, S. J., & Ash, E. (2001). Personality features and characteristics of violent events committed by juvenile offenders. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 19, 81–96. doi:10.1002/bsl.424.
Broidy, L. M., Nagin, D. S., Tremblay, R. E., Bates, J. E., Brame, B., Dodge, K. A., et al. (2003). Developmental trajectories of childhood disruptive behaviors and adolescent delinquency: A six-site, cross-national study. Developmental Psychology. Special issue: Violent children, 39, 222–245.
Chapman, M., Zahn-Waxler, C., Cooperman, G., & Iannotti, R. (1987). Empathy and responsibility in the motivation of children’s helping. Developmental Psychology, 23, 140–145. doi:10.1037/0012-1622.214.171.124.
Cimbora, D. M., & McIntosh, D. N. (2003). Emotional responses to antisocial acts in adolescent males with conduct disorder: A link to affective morality. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 32, 296–301. doi:10.1207/S15374424JCCP3202_16.
Cornell, D. G., Peterson, C. S., & Richards, H. (1999). Anger as a predictor of aggression among incarcerated adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 108–115. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.67.1.108.
Dennis, T. A., Cole, P. M., Zahn-Waxler, C., & Mizuta, I. (2002). Self in context: Autonomy and relatedness in Japanese and US Mother-preschooler dyads. Child Development, 3, 1803–1817. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00507.
Dennis, T. A., Cole, P. M., Zahn-Waxler, C., & Mizuta, I. (2007). The socialization of autonomy and relatedness: Sequential verbal exchanges in Japanese and US Mother-preschooler dyads. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 38, 729–749. doi:10.1177/0022022107308993.
Dougherty, L. R. (2006). Children’s emotionality and social status: A meta-analytic review. Social Development, 15, 395–417. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9507.2006.00348.x.
Eisenberg, N. (2000). Emotion, regulation, and moral development. Annual Review of Psychology, 51, 665–697. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.51.1.665.
Eisenberg, N., Fabes, R. A., Guthrie, I. K., & Reiser, M. (2002). The role of emotionality and regulation in children’s social competence and adjustment. In L. Pulkkinen & A. Caspi (Eds.), Paths to successful development: Personality in the life course (pp. 46–70). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Eisenberg, N., Fabes, R. A., Murphy, B. C., Shepard, S., Guthrie, I. K., Mazsk, P., et al. (1999). Prediction of elementary school children’s socially appropriate and problem behavior from anger reactions at age 4–6 years. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 20, 119–142. doi:10.1016/S0193-3973(99)80007-0.
Finch, A. J., Jr, Saylor, C. F., & Nelson, W. M., I. I. I. (1987). Assessment of anger in children. In R. J. Prinz (Ed.), Advances and behavior assessment of children and families (pp. 235–265). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Furlong, M. J., Smith, D. C., & Bates, M. P. (2002). Further development of the Multidimensional School Anger Inventory: Construct validation, extension of female adolescents, and preliminary norms. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 20, 46–65. doi:10.1177/073428290202000104.
Gosling, P., Denizeau, M., & Oberle′, D. (2006). Denial of responsibility: A new mode of dissonance reduction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 722–733. doi:10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1992.
Hastings, M. E., Northman, L. M., & Tangney, J. P. (2000). Shame, guilt, and suicide. In T. E. Joiner & M. D. Rudd (Eds.), Suicide science: Expanding the boundaries (pp. 67–79). Norwell, MA: Kluwer.
Hendry, J. (1995). Understanding Japanese society. London: Routledge.
Hess, R., Kashiwagi, K., Azuma, H., Price, G. G., & Dickson, W. P. (1980). Maternal expectations for mastery of developmental tasks in Japan and the United States. International Journal of Psychology, 15, 259–271. doi:10.1080/00207598008246996.
Hoffman, M. L. (2000). Empathy and moral development: Implications for caring and justice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Izard, C. E. (1991). The psychology of emotions. New York: Plenum.
Jimerson, S. R., Morrison, G. M., Pletcher, S. W., & Furlong, M. J. (2006). Youth engaged in antisocial and aggressive behaviors: Who are they? In S. R. Jimerson & M. J. Furlong (Eds.), Handbook of school violence and school safety: From research to practice (pp. 3–22). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Killen, M., & Sueyoshi, L. (1995). Conflict resolution in Japanese social interactions. Early Education and Development, 6, 317–334. doi:10.1207/s15566935eed0604_3.
Kitayama, S., Markus, H. R., & Kurokawa, M. (2000). Culture, emotion, and well-being: Good feelings in Japan and the United States. Cognition and Emotion, 14, 93–124. doi:10.1080/026999300379003.
Kitayama, S., Markus, H. R., Matsumoto, H., & Norasakkuankit, V. (1997). Individual and collective processes in the construction of the self: Self-enhancement in the United States and self-criticism in Japan. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 1245–1267. doi:10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.525.
Kitayama, S., Mesquita, B., & Karasawa, M. (2006). Cultural affordances and emotional experience: Socially engaging and disengaging emotions in Japan and the United States. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 890–903. doi:10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2060.
Klonsky, E. D. (2007). The functions of deliberate self-injury: A review of the evidence. Clinical Psychology Review, 27, 226–239. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2006.08.002.
Kobayashi-Winata, H., & Power, T. G. (1989). Child rearing and compliance: Japanese and American families in Houston. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 20, 333–356. doi:10.1177/0022022189204001.
Kochanska, G., deVet, K., Goldman, M., Murray, K., & Putnam, S. P. (1994). Maternal reports of conscience development and temperament in young children. Child Development, 65, 852–868. doi:10.2307/1131423.
Kokko, K., Tremblay, R. E., Lacourse, E., Nagin, D. S., & Vitaro, F. (2006). Trajectories of proscocial behavior and physical aggression in middle childhood: Links to adolescent school dropout and physical violence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 16, 403–428. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2006.00500.x.
Lee, S., Graham, T., & Stevenson, H. (1995). Teachers and teaching: Elementary schools in Japan and the United States. In T. P. Rohlen & G. K. LeTendre (Eds.), Teaching and learning in Japan (pp. 157–212). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Lewis, C. C. (1989). From indulgence to internalization: Social control in the early school years. Journal of Japanese Studies, 15, 139–157. doi:10.2307/132411.
Lewis, M. (1995). Shame: The exposed self. New York: Free Press.
Lochman, J. E., Powell, N. R., Clanton, N., & McElroy, H. K. (2006). Anger and aggression. In G. G. Bear & K. M. Minke (Eds.), Children’s needs III: Development, prevention, and intervention (pp. 115–133). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98, 224–253. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.98.2.224.
Masataka, N. (2002). Low anger-aggression and anxiety-withdrawal characteristic to preschoolers in Japanese society where ‘Hikikomori’ is becoming a major problem. Early Education and Development, 13, 187–199. doi:10.1207/s15566935eed1302_5.
Matsumoto, D., Kudoh, T., Scherer, K., & Wallbott, H. (1988). Antecedents of and reactions to emotions in the United States and Japan. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 19, 267–286. doi:10.1177/0022022188193001.
Menesini, E., & Camodeca, M. (2008). Shame and guilt as behaviour regulators: Relationships with bullying, victimization, and prosocial behaviour. The British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 26, 183–196. doi:10.1348/026151007X205281.
Morrison, B. (2006). School bullying and restorative justice: Toward a theoretical understanding of the role of respect, pride, and shame. The Journal of Social Issues, 62, 371–392. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2006.00455.x.
Orobio de Castro, B., Veerman, J. W., Koops, W., Bosch, J., & Monshuwer, J. J. (2002). Hostile attribution of intent and aggressive behavior: A meta-analysis. Child Development, 73, 916–934. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00447.
O’Toole, M. E. (2000). The school shooter: A threat assessment perspective. Quantico, VA: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Critical Response Group, National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.
Pardini, D. A. (2006). The callousness pathway to severe violent delinquency. Aggressive Behavior, 32, 590–598. doi:10.1002/ab.20158.
Quiles, Z. N., & Bybee, J. (1997). Chronic and predispositional guilt: Relations to mental health, prosocial behavior, and religiosity. Journal of Personality Assessment, 69, 104–126. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa6901_6.
Rothbart, M. K., Ahadi, S. A., & Hershey, K. L. (1994). Temperament and social behavior in childhood. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 40, 21–39.
Rothbaum, F., Pott, M., Azuma, H., Miyake, K., & Weisz, J. (2000). The development of close relationships in Japan and the United States: Pathways of symbiotic harmony and generative tension. Child Development, 71, 1121–1142. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00214.
Silfver, M., Helkama, K., Lonnqvist, J.-E., & Verkasalo, M. (2008). The relation between value priorities and proneness to guilt, shame, and empathy. Motivation and Emotion, 32, 69–80. doi:10.1007/s11031-008-9084-2.
Smith, D. C., Furlong, M. J., Bates, M. P., & Laughlin, J. (1998). Development of the Multidimensional School Anger Inventory for males. Psychology in the Schools, 35, 1–15. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1520-6807(199801)35:1<1::AID-PITS1>3.0.CO;2-U.
Spriito, A., Valeri, S., Boergers, J., & Donaldson, D. (2003). Predictors of continued suicidal behavior in adolescents following a suicide attempt. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 32, 284–289. doi:10.1207/S15374424JCCP3202_14.
Stevenson, H. W., & Stigler, J. W. (1992). The learning gap: Why our schools are failing and what we can learn from Japanese and Chinese Education. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Tangney, J. P. (2003). Self-relevant emotions. In M. R. Leary & J. P. Tangney (Eds.), Handbook of self and identity (pp. 384–400). New York: Guilford.
Tangney, J. P., Burggraff, S. A., & Wagner, P. E. (1995). Shame-proneness, guilt-proneness, and psychological symptoms. In J. P. Tangney & K. W. Fischer (Eds.), Self conscious emotions. New York: Guilford Press.
Tangney, J. P., & Dearing, R. (2002). Shame and guilt. New York: Guilford.
Tangney, J. P., Stuewig, J., & Mashek, D. J. (2007). Moral emotions and moral behavior. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 345–372. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.56.091103.070145.
Tangney, J. P., Wagner, P. E., Burggraf, S. A., Gramzow, R., & Fletcher, C. (1990). The test of self-conscious affect for children (TOSCA–C). Fairfax, VA: George Mason University.
Tangney, J. P., Wagner, P. E., Fletcher, C., & Gramzow, R. (1992). Shamed into anger? The relation of shame and guilt to anger and self-reported aggression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62, 669–675. doi:10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.119.
Tenenbaum, H. R., & Ruck, M. D. (2007). Are teachers’ expectations different for racial minority than for European American students? A meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 253–273.
United Nations. (2004). Seventh United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems, covering the period 1998–2000. Retrieved October 2, 2007 from http://www.unodc.org/pdf/crime/seventh_survey/7pv.pdf.
United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2005). Crime in the United States 2005. Retrieved October 2, 2007 from http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/about/index.html.
Vitaro, F., Brendgen, M., Larose, S., & Trembaly, R. E. (2005). Kindergarten disruptive behaviors, protective factors, and educational achievement by early adulthood. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97, 617–629. doi:10.1037/0022-0618.104.22.1687.
Waschbusch, D. A., Willoughby, M. T., & Pelham, W. E., Jr. (1998). Criterion validity and the utility of reactive and proactive aggression: Comparisons to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, and other measures of functioning. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 27, 396–405. doi:10.1207/s15374424jccp2704_3.
Weiner, B. (1995). Judgments of responsibility. New York: Guilford Press.
Weiner, B. (2006). Social motivation, justice, and the moral emotions: An attributional approach. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Zahn-Waxler, C., Friedman, R. J., Cole, P. M., Mizuta, I., & Hiruma, N. (1996). Japanese and United States preschool children’s responses to conflict and distress. Child Development, 67, 2462–2477. doi:10.2307/1131634.
This research was partially supported by a grant from the University of Delaware’s Center for International Studies. The authors would like to acknowledge the research assistance of Karole Kurtz, Mutsuko Sato, Miho Dambata, Atsuko Yokobori, and Reina Kakimoto, and the helpful comments about the paper by Dr. Cal Izard.
About this article
Cite this article
Bear, G.G., Uribe-Zarain, X., Manning, M.A. et al. Shame, guilt, blaming, and anger: Differences between children in Japan and the US. Motiv Emot 33, 229 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-009-9130-8
- Externalization of blame
- Japanese and American children