From Shame to Guilt: The Remediation of Bullying Across Cultures and the US

  • Rebecca S. MerkinEmail author


When shame becomes guilt, individuals change their focus from blaming others to acknowledging personal responsibility. This piece reports on findings that show how aspects of shame are correlated with bullying behaviors and how reducing those behaviors can be achieved by remediating shame through the promotion of guilt or by using interconnected harmony strategies. Though this study primarily tested US (individualistic) participants, these findings are compared with extant studies carried out in collectivistic cultures because it is important to focus on remediating shame to reduce bullying in multiple contexts. Shame prompts the desire to amend the threatened social self and improve self-esteem. A common maladaptive method of amending the threatened social self and improving self-esteem is bullying, because bullying gives the perpetrator an illusion of power and importance. Addressing and remediating shame could have a positive effect on reducing bullying by establishing an ethical climate within bullying environments that encourages mutual respect, shared responsibility, and social inclusion. Results of this study support the notion that correlates of shame established in previous research on convicts, extends to individuals with a propensity to bully others. Analysis of cross-cultural literature and US findings illuminates how shame leads to a resource-orientation through the desire for harmonious mediation and the acceptance of responsibility through guilt.


Bully Bullying Shame United States Individualistic context Guilt Detachment Externalisation of blame 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Baruch College—CUNYNew YorkUSA

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