Abstract: The Longitudinal Patterns of Shame, Guilt and Anger during Emerging Adulthood Among a Group of Low-Income Women: Implications for Strengths-Based Approaches (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

The Longitudinal Patterns of Shame, Guilt and Anger during Emerging Adulthood Among a Group of Low-Income Women: Implications for Strengths-Based Approaches

Friday, January 14, 2022
Supreme Court, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Yan Yuan, PHD, LCSW, Postdoctoral Associate, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Christina Newhill, PhD, Professor, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Hyunji Lee, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Lori Scott, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, PA
Background/Purpose: Emerging adulthood (EA) is a critical developmental period (roughly from 18-25), during which young people experience considerable changes in a diversity of areas, including emotional and cognitive transformations. Emotion regulation (ER) involves modifying the emotional processes of self or another. Extant literature reports mixed findings regarding the ER development during EA. While some researchers identify significant growth in adaptive strategies, others suggest elevated sensitivities to negative emotions. Shame, guilt and anger are among the most commonly identified social emotions which primarily arise in interpersonal contexts. Managing social emotions influences young adults’ abilities to form meaningful relationships, develop social competence, and serve as protective factors for overall life functioning.

Methods: Participants consisted of 144 women (ages 18–25) evidencing personality disorder features, impulsive aggression and self-harm, recruited from a larger community-based longitudinal study. The parent study participants were identified by oversampling from neighborhoods where at least 25% of families were living at or below the poverty line. The majority (72.2%) of our participants identified as racial or ethnic minority (70% African American; 2% multi-racial; 4% Hispanic/Latina), and 51% reported receipt of public assistance.

Measures: Shame and guilt were examined employing the Guilt and Shame Proneness Scale (GASP), a 16-item self-report scale that assesses individuals’ tendencies to experience shame and guilt. Anger was assessed via an abbreviated scale adapted from State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory–2 (STAXI-2). All measures were administered at baseline, 6-month and 12-month

Analyses: We first performed factor analyses using the abbreviated STAXI-2. Informed by the new factor structure, we conducted four sets of first-order latent growth curve models, assessing the longitudinal patterns in shame, guilt, anger control and anger expression.

Results: Model fits were good for Anger Control [X2(8,144)=.087, p=.77; CFI=1.00; RMSEA=.00, 90% CI (.11, .15); SRMR=.01], Anger Expression [X2(8,144)=3.37, p=.07; CFI=.98; RMSEA=.13, 90% CI (.00, .29); SRMR=.03], Shame [X2(8,144)=.73, p=.39; CFI=.98; RMSEA=.00, 90% CI (.00, .14); SRMR=.02] and Guilt [X2(8,144)=.07, p=.79; CFI=.99; RMSEA=.00, 90% CI (.00, .14); SRMR=.01]. The growth parameters indicated that there was significant variability in baseline Anger Control (z=51.96, b=6.73, p<.001), Anger Expression (z=50.55, b=5.92, p<.001), Shame (z=58.19, b=6.46, p<.001) and Guilt (z=46.64, b=5.11, p<.001); as well as the rates of change in Anger Control (z=2.67, b=.64, p<.05), Anger Expression (z=-4.68, b=-1.61, p<.001), and Guilt (z=-2.64, b=-.33, p<.05) across three waves.

Conclusion/Implications: Our results point to a decreasing trend in ratings of shame, guilt, and anger over time among this low-income group of young women. These findings add to the extant knowledge regarding developmental changes over time in emotion regulation in emerging adulthood. The decline in negative emotions suggests possible development of emotional self-efficacy, manifested by effectively expressing and managing negative emotions. As aforementioned, our participants were from underserved low-income communities, and were frequently labeled as an “at-risk” population for various reasons, such as the presence of mental illness, substance use, and crime. Highlighting the growth and resilience among this vulnerable population, suggests the importance of adopting strengths-based approaches while addressing the intersectional challenges such young women often face.