Shame is bad and guilt is good: An examination of the impaired control over drinking pathway to alcohol use and related problems

Julie Patock-Peckham, Jessica R. Canning, Robert F. Leeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Tension Reduction Theory (Kushner, Sher, Wood, & Wood, 1994) suggests alcohol is used as a means to alleviate negative affect (NA) such as shame and guilt. Shame is an internalized response in which blame is placed on the self, while guilt is not internalized and the blame is placed on the situation (Dearing, Stuewig, & Tangney, 2005). This study aims to investigate relationships of shame and guilt to alcohol use and problems through the mechanisms of multiple facets of impulsivity (i.e. UPPS) and impaired control over drinking (IC), which reflect behavioral control processes. The sample consisted of 419 college students (53% female). We examined direct and indirect relationships of shame and guilt on alcohol use and related problems through facets of impulsivity and IC. Shame and guilt were found to diverge (Woien, Ernst, Patock-Peckham, & Nagoshi, 2003). We found that those higher on shame-proneness used more alcohol and experienced more alcohol-related problems through increased negative urgency and IC. Conversely, guilt-prone individuals used less alcohol and experienced fewer alcohol-related problems through less negative urgency and IC. Our findings suggest that guilt is an adaptive form of negative affect, particularly when it comes to alcohol-related outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-66
Number of pages5
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
StatePublished - Jan 15 2018



  • Alcohol use
  • Guilt
  • Impaired control over drinking
  • Shame
  • UPPS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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