Aversion and proneness to shame in self-and informant-reported personality disorder symptoms

Michelle Schoenleber, Howard Berenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study examined the specificity and extent of relationships between shame and symptoms of five personality disorders (PDs), as they are apparent to both the self and others. Borderline, narcissistic, avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive PD symptoms were assessed in a sample of 367 undergraduates that evidenced a wide range of symptom levels (25.6% endorsed threshold or greater severity of symptoms on the Schedule of Nonadaptive and Adaptive Personality-2). Importantly, for both conceptual and methodological reasons, information about PD symptoms was also obtained from friends/family of 45.2% of the sample. Shame aversion (the tendency to perceive shame as a particularly painful and unwanted emotion) was assessed using the Shame-Aversive Reactions Questionnaire, and shame-proneness (the propensity to experience shame across situations) was assessed using the Test of Self-Conscious Affect-3. Shame aversion displayed the most consistent relationship with PD symptoms, being associated with self-reports of symptoms of all five PDs and informant-reports of symptoms of three PDs, over and above experiential avoidance, trait affect, and guilt. A significant Shame Aversion × Shame-Proneness interaction further revealed that shame-proneness was associated with symptoms of avoidant and dependent PDs among individuals with high but not low levels of shame aversion. Thus, these findings highlight shame aversion's specific importance in PD symptoms and suggest important future research directions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-304
Number of pages11
JournalPersonality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Cluster C personality disorders
  • Shame aversion
  • borderline personality disorder
  • narcissistic personality disorder
  • shame-proneness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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