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J Pers Assess. 1997 Aug;69(1):104-26.

Chronic and predispositional guilt: relations to mental health, prosocial behavior, and religiosity.

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Department of Psychology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Researchers are in sharp disagreement concerning the role of guilt in mental health and prosocial behavior, and on whether guilt is associated with greater religiosity. We sought to resolve diametrically opposed reports by distinguishing chronic guilt, an ongoing condition unattached to immediate events, from predispositional guilt, a personality proclivity for experiencing guilt in reaction to circumscribed precipitating events. We administered a battery of commonly used guilt and shame measures to 101 undergraduates (48 men, 53 women) as well as measures of chronic and predispositional guilt designed to hold content constant. Undergraduates also completed the Beck Depression Inventory and the Symptom Checklist 90-Revised, reported extracurricular activities including volunteer work and religious group participation, and provided other information on religiosity. Chronic guilt invariably showed stronger relations than did predispositional guilt with symptoms of depression and psychopathology. In contrast, predispositional compared to chronic guilt was more strongly associated with lowered hostility and increased volunteerism as well as participation in religious activities and religiosity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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