Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Orcutt, Holly K.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Exposure to negative events in childhood has been well-established as a risk factor for negative health outcomes in adulthood. Childhood emotional abuse, while frequently co-occurring with other types of abuse, is often neglected in the trauma literature, but has been found to be an important independent predictor of adult psychopathology. Shame and guilt are negative emotions often experienced by those suffering with depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and may have implications for the development and maintenance of these psychological disorders. Further, generalized guilt and shame were found to be significantly higher in individuals with PTSD and depression and associated with severity of psychopathology. The current study aimed to further investigate the impact of childhood emotional abuse specifically on adult psychopathology, as well as to explore the potential impact of childhood emotional abuse on adult experiences of guilt and shame using a cognitive experimental task. Results indicated that childhood emotional abuse is a significant independent predictor of both depression and PTSD, even when controlling for other forms of childhood abuse. Implicit guilt-prone and shame-prone self-concept was not a significant predictor of psychopathology. Similarly, neither shame-prone nor guilt-prone self-concept were predicted by childhood emotional abuse. This study highlights the unique impact of childhood emotional abuse on symptoms of psychopathology. However, further research is needed to determine the extent to which guilt-proneness or shame-proneness may play a role in the development and maintenance of symptoms.


81 pages




Northern Illinois University

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