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


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.

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shame, guilt, anger, externalization of blame, Japanese and American children

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Journal Title

Motivation and Emotion