Elucidating the relationships between shame, anger, and self-destructive behaviors: The role of aversive responses to emotions

Clair Cassiello-Robbins, Julianne G. Wilner, Jessica R. Peters, Kate H. Bentley, Shannon Sauer-Zavala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Shame and anger are distinct yet interrelated emotions that have both been implicated in the occurrence of impulsive, self-destructive behavior (ISDB); however, the intricacies of these relations remain sparsely examined. Some research, mostly with anxiety and depression, suggests that an aversive reaction to the experience of negative emotions can result in efforts to escape or avoid such experiences. The current study sought to extend this model to the experience of shame. Consistently, we predicted that aversive reactions to shame would be associated with anger, which would be associated with ISDB. Four hundred and seventy-five undergraduate students completed a series of online questionnaires. Serial mediation was performed and r-square indicated that 35.55% of the variance in impulsive behavior was explained by this model. As predicted, shame had a significant indirect effect on anger through aversive reactions to emotions and on ISDB through aversive reactions to emotions and anger. Unexpectedly the reverse model, with an aversive reaction to anger predicting shame and ISDB, was also significant suggesting possible bidirectional relations between these constructs. This study is among the first to examine a possible mechanism by which shame can lead to ISDB, providing potential points of intervention for treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-12
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Contextual Behavioral Science
StatePublished - Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018


  • Anger
  • Functional analysis
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Shame

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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