Shame, guilt, and denial in offenders

Xuereb, Sharon (2009) Shame, guilt, and denial in offenders. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This Phi) examined shame, guilt, and denial in sexual, violent, and general offenders, aiming to reach a clear conceptualisation of these concepts. Hence a measure of shame, guilt, and denial was developed for use with offenders. The research also examined the association of shame, guilt, and denial with more stable variables. Through a
consultation with 39 experts, Study 1 identified attributes of shame, guilt, and denial. Study 2 was conducted with 339 male offenders. It was predicted that shame and guilt would not be confirmed as distinct concepts. The emerging model comprised three stable/chronic factors: Chronic distress and low self-worth, Chronic responsibility and self-blame, and Emotional capacity and perspective-taking; and five offence-related factors: Acknowledging responsibility, Distress and rejection, Minimisation of harm, Lack of negative emotion, and Functions of denial. Study 3 was conducted with 349 male and 196 female offenders, and coping styles were examined. It was predicted that chronic and offence-related distress would positively correlate with emotional and avoidant coping, while offence-related distress would also negatively correlate with
rational and detached coping. It was also predicted that offence-denial would positively correlate with avoidant coping. These predictions were supported. In addition, the conceptual structure emerging from study 2 was confirmed after three factors with lower reliability were removed; and minor changes to the remalning factors were made.
Study 4 was conducted with 405 male offenders, and included measures of self-esteem and maladaptive personality traits. It was predicted that self-esteem would negatively correlate with chronic distress and responsibility, and have a non-significant
relationship with offence-denial. It was also predicted that maladaptive personality traits would positively correlate with chronic distress, chronic responsibility, and offencedenial.
These predictions were supported, and the proposed concepts were again confirmed after small changes. Contrary to predictions, sexual offenders did not report more chronic distress, offence-related distress, or offence-denial. The current research indicates that distress and responsibility are better able to describe offenders' chronic and offence-related experiences than shame, guilt, and denial. In addition, while literature on offence-denial focuses on sexual offenders, this PhD shows that this concept is valid for all offenders.

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