Physical abuse histories are common among men who engage in physical violence toward their partners (Dutton 2000; Margolin, John, and Foo 1998). Research has begun to focus on how shame and guilt regulate the expression of aggression (Dutton 1999; Tangney et al. 1996). In this study we hypothesized that proneness to shame and guilt would predict men's aggression toward their partners, even after accounting for men's physical abuse histories.
Using community advertisements, we recruited 52 heterosexual, English-speaking couples, married or living together for at least a year. The ethnic makeup of the sample reflected that of the greater Boston area. Couples completed a series of questionnaires assessing (1) the severity of childhood physical abuse—ChildhoodTrauma Questionnaire (Bernstein and Fink 1998); (2) guilt and shame proneness— Test of Self ConsciousAffect(Tangney, Wagner, and Gramzow 1989; and (3) frequency of current physical aggression toward partners— Revised Conflict Tactics Scale (Straus et al. 1996).
Results and Discussion
Using linear regression analysis to control for men's history of physical abuse, we found that men who were more prone to experience shame were more frequently aggressive toward their partners, whereas proneness to guilt was related to less frequent aggression. These results suggest that further exploration of the role of shame and guilt in domestic violence is warranted. Knowledge of men's proneness to shame and guilt may increase our ability to predict the frequency of their aggressive behavior toward intimate partners.
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Moore, C., Dunkelberg, E., Chivers, L., O'Berg, J. and Waldinger, R.J. (2004). The Role of Shame and Guilt in Male Aggression toward Partners. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 52(2):480-481