Helpful or Harmful: The Impact of Shame and Guilt on Concealment in Adulthood Following Childhood Trauma
Date of Award
Doctoral Research Project
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Patrick J. Aragon
Demara B. Bennett
Robert A. Taylor
The current study aimed to examine the moderating role of shame and guilt in the associations between types of childhood maltreatment and levels of self-concealment. Childhood maltreatment has been linked to emotions such as shame and guilt that elicit schemas of self-doubt, incompetence, and failure (Cohen et al., (2011). When an individual internalizes these thoughts and emotions, they may act in maladaptive ways such as avoidance, fear, dissociation, and possible concealment within adulthood (Dorahy & Clearwater, 2012, Smetana et al., 2019). De Seve et al. (2020) recently found that shame proved to be a mediator in the relationship between self-concealment and feelings of inferiority, further emphasizing the importance of research on shame and guilt within self-concealment. A hierarchical regression was utilized to examine if shame and guilt moderates the relationship between various types of childhood maltreatment (e.g., physical abuse, physical neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse) and level of concealment. Participants ranged in age from 19-64 years old and were recruited on a volunteer basis via social media platforms and local organizations and schools. Participants completed the self-report measures of the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), The Test of
Self-Conscious Affect (TOSCA), The Adverse Childhood Experiences Questionnaire (ACE-Q), and The Self Concealment Scale (SCS) through Qualtrics. The present study utilized the data collected from the CTQ, ACE-Q, TOSCA, and SCS. The study consisted of 68 participants. 50% of participants identified as male (n = 34), 47% identified as female (n = 32). Among this sample 57 of the participants endorsed a history of childhood trauma while 19 participants endorsed no history of childhood trauma. It was hypothesized that participants who scored higher on shame, compared to guilt, would also score significantly higher on level of concealment, and this hypothesis was supported. Significant negative correlations were also found between emotional neglect as well as sexual abuse and concealment, suggesting a relationship between childhood trauma and concealment. It should also be noted that although it was hypothesized that the participants who reported childhood trauma would display higher levels on concealment on the SCS than the control group, a control group was unable to be formed due to the prevalence of childhood trauma in the sample. While it was hypothesized that shame would moderate the relationship between childhood trauma and level of concealment, as assessed with the CTQ, ACE-Q, and TOSCA-3, a moderated regression analysis found this interaction to be non-significant. These findings suggest that concealment may serve as a barrier to individuals disclosing feelings of shame. Due to a previous confirmed mediation between shame and feelings of inferiority, it can be suggested that the items meant to endorse shame on the TOSCA-3 elicited feelings of inferiority resulting in the individual concealing this information. In addition to clinical implications, these results suggest that future research should incorporate considerations of the role of concealment in participant expression of shame.
Senior, Xiomara Vanessa, "Helpful or Harmful: The Impact of Shame and Guilt on Concealment in Adulthood Following Childhood Trauma" (2022). Theses and Dissertations. 385.