The relationship between attachment, the selfconscious emotions of shame and guilt & problem behavior in adolescents

  • R.C.E.T.G. Houtackers


A cross-sectional study was conducted to explore the relationship between attachment, the self-conscious emotions of shame and guilt, and problem behavior in adolescents. The study was performed in clinical adolescents aged 13-18 years (N = 31) who had been in contact with the Child Care and Protection Agency. They completed questionnaires measuring shame and guilt, the quality of the attachment relationship and the extent of problem behavior. Results demonstrated that communication, a positive dimension of attachment, was positively associated with various forms of shame and guilt. It was found that trust in parents and peers was associated with a higher extent of conduct problems and hyperactivity. Results also revealed that guilt (unambiguous) was positively correlated with pro-social behavior. Shame (ambiguous) was positively associated with emotional symptoms. Regression analysis showed that both age and gender accounted for an independent and significant proportion of the variance in children’s problem behavior. Altogether, these results fit with the theory that attachment (in)security is involved in the extent of problem behavior and people’s proneness to experience self-conscious emotions.


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