Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Valerie A. Simon

Second Advisor

Marjorie Beeghly


The current study focuses on maltreatment-specific shame as a potential mechanism by which mothers' histories of childhood maltreatment might influence parenting and infant emotion regulation. Shame is a common reaction to childhood maltreatment, and the persistence of maltreatment-specific shame is associated with psychopathology and other psychosocial problems long after the abuse ends (Andrews, Brewin, Rose, & Kirk, 2000; Feiring, Taska, & Lewis, 2002a; Feiring & Taska, 2005). Despite being associated with psychopathology (e.g., depression, PTSD), shame is a conceptually distinct abuse-specific reaction that can interfere with self and interpersonal development (Feiring, Cleland & Simon, 2010; Feiring, Simon, Cleland, 2009; Feiring, Simon, Cleland & Barrett, 2013). Remarkably little is known about whether and how maltreatment-specific shame might affect women's postpartum adjustment, parenting, and infant emotion regulation. The current study begins to address this gap in the literature by (1) identifying factors associated with maltreatment-specific shame during the postpartum period, and (2) examining associations between mothers' maltreatment-specific shame with parenting (as measured by maternal hostility and maternal positive affect) and infants' emotion regulation during an interactional stressor at 6-months postpartum. These associations were also explored with depression, to compare the outcomes and understand the distinct effects of shame with parenting and infant emotion regulation.

Results indicate that maltreatment-specific shame is predicted by multi-maltreatment, but not any other socio-demographic or maltreatment characteristics. Additionally, maltreatment-specific shame predicts maternal hostility, but not maternal positive affect during maternal-child interactions. Depression predicts both maternal positive affect and maternal hostility. Evidence did not support indirect relationships between shame and infant emotion regulation via parenting behaviors. The relationships between shame, parenting, and infant emotion regulation may be better understood by exploring the long-term associations between depression symptoms and shame with parenting behavior and infant emotion regulation. The current study provides evidence in support of theories that maltreatment-specific shame is related to increased hostile parenting behaviors.