Shame on you, or shame on me? : An examination of body-related self-conscious emotions across the lifespan


Body-related self-conscious emotions include guilt, shame, and pride (authentic and hubristic) and are experienced in relation to a person's body. Body-related guilt and shame are associated with negative health-related outcomes including disordered eating and depression, whereas authentic pride is associated with positive outcomes such as increased self-esteem. Previous studies suggest that body-related self-conscious emotions vary across gender, age and weight-status; however, most research has focused on young adult populations. In one study that examined a larger age range, only those up to age 65 were included. Therefore, the present study aimed to examine body-related shame, guilt, and pride across age, gender, and BMI in a sample of men and women throughout the lifespan. Participants (N = 298) aged 18-85 completed questionnaires to assess body-related self-conscious emotions and physical activity, and self-reported demographic characteristics including height, weight, and age. The overall MANCOVA was significant (F (4, 278) = 635.16, p < .05) and univariate and post-hoc analyses revealed significant main effects for age, gender, and BMI when controlling for physical activity (all p's < .05), indicating that older and middle-aged adults reported higher shame and guilt than young adults, females reported higher shame and guilt than males, and obese and overweight individuals reported higher shame and guilt than individuals classified as normal-weight. Findings from the present study suggest that body-related self-conscious emotions, specifically shame and guilt, fluctuate across gender, age and weight-status; giving insight to populations who may benefit from future studies aimed at decreasing negative outcomes related to body image.