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Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the guiltiest of them all? A Study of Guilt in Young Adults Across Cultures

Researcher Georgina Tay

Supervisors Dr Suzanne Dziurawiec

Date: Completed 2011

Ethics Approval Number: 2011/102

Research Findings

Guilt as a self-conscious emotion has been studied largely with children as well as older people. Based on research by Orth, Robins & Soto (2010) on tracking the trajectory of self-conscious emotions such as guilt, shame and pride across lifespan ages, they found the highest incidence of experienced guilt was found to be during the period of young adulthood (18-34 years). This study therefore sought to investigate the experience of guilt as a multi-faceted construct that incorporated the components of reparative and maladaptive guilt across cultures of Singapore and Australia in young adults (N=129, 65 Singaporeans and 64 Australians). Young adults from Singapore were found to experience more Separation guilt as compared to young adults from Australians. This could have been attributed to the relationship between Separation guilt and the difference in cultures between these two nationalities. Guilt was also studied with psychological outcomes that could affect young adulthood, such as loneliness and depression. The study found that Depression Scales and Separation guilt significantly accounted for part of the variance in predicting Loneliness. Furthermore, in line with previous literature, women were found to experience more guilt as compared to men across both cultures.