Leeming, Dawn and Boyle, Mary (2004) Shame as a social phenomenon: A critical analysis of the concept of dispositional shame. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 77 (3). pp. 375-396. ISSN 1476-0835

An increased clinical interest in shame has been reflected in the growing number of research studies in this area. However, clinically-orientated empirical investigation has mostly been restricted to the investigation of individual differences in dispositional shame.

This paper reviews recent work on dispositional shame but then argues that the primacy of this construct has been problematic in a number of ways. Most importantly, the notion of shame as a context-free intrapsychic variable has distracted clinical researchers from investigating the management and repair of experiences of shame and shameful identities, and has made the social constitution of shame less visible.

Several suggestions are made for alternative ways in which susceptibility to shame could be conceptualised, which consider how shame might arise in certain contexts and as a product of particular social encounters. For example, persistent difficulties with shame may relate to the salience of stigmatising discourses within a particular social context, the roles or subject positions available to an individual, the establishment of a repertoire of context-relevant shame avoidance strategies and the personal meaning of shamefulness.

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