Experiences of shame, social rank and violence amongst male offenders

Prof Doc Thesis

Flynn, Alison 2017. Experiences of shame, social rank and violence amongst male offenders. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London Psychology https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.6406
AuthorsFlynn, Alison
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Background: Theory associates shame with violence but research is inconsistent. The Compassion Focused Therapy shame concept distinguishes internal shame, other shame and social rank, offering a novel research approach. Adverse and traumatic experiences have been associated with violence in adulthood.

Aims: This study aimed to distinguish between internal, other and social rank shame with the intention of introducing a relational and social understanding of shame and violence. Secondly, it aimed to explore developmental psychopathology theories of violence by profiling the central and traumatic features of male offenders’ shame memories.

Method: Drawing on a pragmatist philosophy, this study adopted a cross sectional, quantitative approach. Male offenders (N = 121) in a young offenders prison were recruited via the healthcare suite. Participants were invited to complete a series of established self-report questionnaires via one to one interview. Two questionnaires required responses with reference to a strong shame memory.

Results: Multiple regression analysis found proactive aggression was predicted by other shame, social rank and shame memory avoidance. Only other shame and participant age were independent predictors of proactive aggression. Reactive aggression was predicted by internal shame, other shame, shame memory avoidance and hyperarousal, however only age independently predicted reactive aggression. MANCOVA found no differences between groups with and without physical violence risk alerts in terms of shame when controlling for age. Structural Equation Modelling identified social rank and other shame as mediators of proactive aggression. Black and Asian/Other ethnic groups had significantly higher levels of social rank but not aggression.

Conclusion: Although physically violent and nonviolent groups did not differ in terms of shame, different shame variables predicted proactive and reactive aggression in the whole population. The structural equation model is a novel analysis of proactive aggression. Ethnic differences in social rank are discussed in terms of BME overrepresentation in the criminal justice system.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.6406
Publication dates
PrintMay 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited19 Oct 2017
Publisher's version
Permalink -


Download files

  • 156
    total views
  • 628
    total downloads
  • 0
    views this month
  • 3
    downloads this month

Export as