Skip to main content

Shame, guilt, blaming, and anger: Differences between children in Japan and the US

Abstract

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.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    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.

References

  1. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  2. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 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.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Beautrais, A. L. (2006). Suicide in Asia. Crisis, 27, 55–57. doi:10.1027/0227-5910.27.2.55.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  10. 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:10.1037/0012-1649.23.1.140.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 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.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. 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.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Eisenberg, N. (2000). Emotion, regulation, and moral development. Annual Review of Psychology, 51, 665–697. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.51.1.665.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  18. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  20. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 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:10.1037/0022-3514.90.5.722.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Hendry, J. (1995). Understanding Japanese society. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  24. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Hoffman, M. L. (2000). Empathy and moral development: Implications for caring and justice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Izard, C. E. (1991). The psychology of emotions. New York: Plenum.

    Google Scholar 

  27. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Killen, M., & Sueyoshi, L. (1995). Conflict resolution in Japanese social interactions. Early Education and Development, 6, 317–334. doi:10.1207/s15566935eed0604_3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 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:10.1037/0022-3514.72.6.1245.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. 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:10.1037/0022-3514.91.5.890.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. 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.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  33. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 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.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  37. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Lewis, M. (1995). Shame: The exposed self. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  39. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  40. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 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.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  46. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Pardini, D. A. (2006). The callousness pathway to severe violent delinquency. Aggressive Behavior, 32, 590–598. doi:10.1002/ab.20158.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. 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.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  49. Rothbart, M. K., Ahadi, S. A., & Hershey, K. L. (1994). Temperament and social behavior in childhood. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 40, 21–39.

    Google Scholar 

  50. 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.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  51. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  55. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  56. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Tangney, J. P., & Dearing, R. (2002). Shame and guilt. New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  58. 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.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  59. 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.

    Google Scholar 

  60. 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:10.1037/0022-3514.62.4.669.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  61. 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. 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.

  63. 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.

  64. 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:10.1037/0022-0663.97.4.617.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. 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.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  66. Weiner, B. (1995). Judgments of responsibility. New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Weiner, B. (2006). Social motivation, justice, and the moral emotions: An attributional approach. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  68. 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.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

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.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to George G. Bear.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

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

Download citation

Keywords

  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Externalization of blame
  • Japanese and American children