Lack of guilt, guilt, and shame: a multi-informant study on the relations between self-conscious emotions and psychopathology in clinically referred children and adolescents

Peter Muris*, Cor Meesters, Jolina Heijmans, Sandra van Hulten, Linsy Kaanen, Birgit Oerlemans, Tessa Stikkelbroeck, Tim Tielemans

*Corresponding author for this work

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The present study examined the relationships between dysregulations in self-conscious emotions and psychopathology in clinically referred children and adolescents. For this purpose, parent-, teacher-, and self-report Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment data of 1000 youth aged 4-18 years was analyzed as this instrument not only provides information on the intensity levels of lack of guilt, guilt, and shame, but also on the severity of various types of psychopathology. The results first of all indicated that dysregulations of self-conscious emotions were more common in this clinical sample than in the general population. Further, a consistent pattern was found with regard to the relationships between self-conscious emotions and childhood psychopathology. That is, lack of guilt was predominantly associated with oppositional defiant and conduct (i.e., externalizing) problems, while guilt and shame were primarily linked with affective and anxiety (i.e., internalizing) problems. By and large, these findings confirm what has been found in non-clinical youth, and suggest that self-conscious emotions play a small but significant role in the psychopathology of children and adolescents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-396
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016


  • Self-conscious emotions
  • Guilt and shame
  • Psychopathology
  • Children and adolescents
  • Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment
  • MIND

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