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Moore, C. Dunkelberg, E. Chivers, L. O'Berg, J. Waldinger, R.J. (2004). The Role of Shame and Guilt in Male Aggression toward Partners. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 52(2):480-481.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Role of Shame and Guilt in Male Aggression toward Partners

(2004). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 52(2):480-481

The Role of Shame and Guilt in Male Aggression toward Partners

Cynthia Moore, Erika Dunkelberg, Laura Chivers, Jacqueline O'Berg and Robert J. WaldingerAuthor Information

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—Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (Bernstein and Fink 1998); (2) guilt and shame proneness— Test of Self Conscious Affect (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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BERNSTEIN, D., & FINK, L. (1998). Childhood Trauma Questionnaire: A Retrospective Self-Report. San Antonio: The Psychological Corporation.

DUTTON, D. (1999). Traumatic origins of intimate rage. Aggression & Violent Behavior 4: 431-446.

DUTTON, D. (2000). Witnessing parental violence as a traumatic experience shaping the abusive personality. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma 3: 59-67.

FINK, L., BERNSTEIN, D., FOOTE, J., HANDELSMAN, L., & LOVEJOY, M. (1994). Initial reliability and validity of a new retrospective measure of child abuse and neglect. Am. J. Psychiatry 151: 1132-1136.

MARGOLIN, G., JOHN, R., & FOO, L. (1998). Interactive and unique risk factors for husbands' emotional and physical abuse of their wives. Journal of Family Violence 13: 315-344.

STRAUS, M.A., HAMBY, S.L., BONEY-MCCOY, S., & SUGARMAN, D.B. (1996). The revised Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS2): Development and preliminary psychometric data. Journal of Family Issues 17: 283-316.

TANGNEY, J.P., WAGNER,P., ET AL. (1996). Relation of shame and guilt to constructive versus destructive responses to anger across the lifespan. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 70: 797-809.

TANGNEY, J.P., WAGNER, P., & GRAMZOW, R. (1989). The Test of Self Conscious Affect (TOSCA). Unpublished manual, George Mason University.

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Article Citation

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

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