Relation of Shame and Guilt to Constructive Versus Destructive Responses to Anger Across the Lifespan

June Price Tangney, Patricia E. Wagner, Deborah Hill-Barlow, Donna E. Marschall, Richard Gramzow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

454 Scopus citations


This study explored the relation of shame proneness and guilt proneness to constructive versus destructive responses to anger among 302 children (Grades 4-6), 427 adolescents (Grades 7-11), 176 college students, and 194 adults. Across all ages, shame proneness was clearly related to maladaptive responses to anger, including malevolent intentions; direct, indirect, and displaced aggression; self-directed hostility; and negative long-term consequences. In contrast, guilt proneness was associated with constructive means of handling anger, including constructive intentions, corrective action and nonhostile discussion with the target of the anger, cognitive reappraisals of the target's role, and positive long-term consequences. Escapist-diffusing responses showed some interesting developmental trends. Among children, these dimensions were positively correlated with guilt and largely unrelated to shame; among older participants, the results were mixed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)797-809
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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