Aetiology of Shame and its Association with Adolescent Depression and Anxiety: Results from a Prospective Twin and Sibling Study

Nikolic, Milica; Hannigan, L.J.; Krebs, G.; Sterne, A; Gregory, Alice M. and Eley, Thalia C.. 2022. Aetiology of Shame and its Association with Adolescent Depression and Anxiety: Results from a Prospective Twin and Sibling Study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 63(1), pp. 99-108. ISSN 0021-9630 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Shame is considered a maladaptive self-conscious emotion that commonly co-occurs alongside depression and anxiety. Little is known, however, about the aetiology of shame and its associations with depression and anxiety. We estimated, for the first time, genetic and environmental influences on shame and on its associations with depression and anxiety in adolescence.

The sample was twin and sibling pairs from the Genesis 1219 Study (Time 1, N = 2,685; males 42.8%, Mage = 14.95, SD = 1.67, age range: 12–21; Time 2, N = 1618; males 39.7%, Mage = 16.97, SD = 1.64, age range: 14–23). Participants completed validated questionnaires to measure shame (at Time 1), depression and anxiety (at Times 1 and 2).

Shame was moderately to strongly associated with concurrent depression and anxiety. Prospectively, shame was significantly associated with an increase in depression, but not anxiety. Genetic analyses revealed that shame was moderately heritable with substantial nonshared environmental influence. The associations between shame and concurrent depression and anxiety were primarily accounted for by overlapping genetic influences. Prospectively, the association between shame and later depression was primarily accounted for by genetic and nonshared environmental influences shared with earlier depression. The unique association between shame and later depression was mostly explained by common nonshared environmental influences.

The findings offer novel evidence regarding aetiology of shame—although moderately heritable, shame in adolescents may also result from nonshared environmental factors. Genetic and nonshared environmental influences contribute to the co-occurrence of shame with depression and anxiety.

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Research Funding:

Norwegian South-Eastern Regional Health Authority. Grant Number: 2018059

Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek. Grant Number: VI.Veni.201G.017

W T Grant Foundation
Career Development Award. Grant Number: G120/635

UK Medical Research Council. Grant Number: MR/M021475/1

Medical Research Council Training Fellowship. Grant Number: G81/343

MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship. Grant Number: MR/N001400/1

Amsterdam Brain and Cognition

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27 April 2021Accepted
16 June 2021Published Online
January 2022Published

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Date Deposited:

29 Apr 2021 10:12

Last Modified:

19 Jan 2022 15:05

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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