January 2015 Research Update

Every month, we scour the scientific literature for interesting studies that have practical implications for therapists working with shame, self-criticism, or compassion. Below are a few of our favorites for this month:

Self-compassion and self-criticism in depression

A new study just came out where the authors looked at self-criticism in currently depressed, remitted, and never depressed individuals. Both currently depressed and remitted people reported higher levels of self-criticism and lower levels of self-compassion than never depressed controls. Self-criticism and self-compassion related to depression when controlling for perfectionism, rumination, and emotion regulation.

Take away: We need to be paying more attention to self-criticism and self-compassion as possible contributing factors to depression. It would be great to see some longitudinal work addressing this question.

Read more:
Ehret, A. M., Joormann, J., & Berking, M. (2014). Examining risk and resilience factors for depression: The role of self-criticism and self-compassionCognition and Emotion, (ahead-of-print), 1-9.

 

Maternal buffering of amygdala response in children

Here is a brand new study showing that the presence of a child’s mother, either in person or in pictures, buffers the amygdala response in a way that the presence of a stranger does not. Results showed both decreased activity in the amygdala and increased functional connectivity between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex in the presence of maternal stimuli. The researchers did not find the same effect in adolescents.

Take away: More evidence that relationships can affect the brain.

Read more:
Gee, D. G., Gabard-Durnam, L., Telzer, E. H., Humphreys, K. L., Goff, B., Shapiro, M., ... & Tottenham, N. (2014). Maternal Buffering of Human Amygdala-Prefrontal Circuitry During Childhood but Not During Adolescence. Psychological science, 0956797614550878.

 

Shame-prone kids and guilt-prone kids look different in adulthood

Here is another very new study looking at shame and guilt-proneness. What is neat about this study is that the authors followed a bunch of shame and guilt-prone fifth graders into adulthood. Here is what they found: "Guilt-proneness assessed in childhood predicted fewer sexual partners, less use of illegal drugs, and less involvement with the criminal justice system. Shame-proneness, in contrast, was a risk factor for later deviant behavior. Shame-prone children were more likely to have unprotected sex and use illegal drugs in young adulthood. These results held when controlling for childhood SES and teachers’ ratings of aggression."

Take away: Unacknowledged shame-proneness has major consequences for developing kids. We wonder how self-compassion cultivation might have affected these outcomes?

Read more:
Stuewig, J., Tangney, J. P., Kendall, S., Folk, J. B., Meyer, C. R., & Dearing, R. L. (2014). Children’s Proneness to Shame and Guilt Predict Risky and Illegal Behaviors in Young AdulthoodChild Psychiatry & Human Development, 1-11.


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