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Internalizing Early Memories of Shame and Lack of Safeness and Warmth: The Mediating Role of Shame on Depression

  • Marcela Matos (a1), José Pinto-Gouveia (a1) and Cristiana Duarte (a1)

Background: Growing evidence supports the association between early memories of shame and lack of safeness and current shame and depression. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether shame serves as a mediator between such early memories and depressive symptoms. Aims: This study aimed at testing whether the impact of shame traumatic memory, centrality of shame memory, early memories of warmth and safeness (predictors), on depressive symptoms (outcome) would be mediated by current external and internal shame. Method: Student participants (N = 178) recalled an early shame experience and completed self-report instruments measuring centrality and traumatic characteristics of the shame memory, early memories of warmth and safeness, external and internal shame and depressive symptoms. Results: Path analysis’ results revealed that internal shame fully mediated the relationship between shame traumatic memory, centrality of shame memory, and early memories of warmth and safeness, and depression. However, current feelings of external shame, highly linked to internal shame, did not significantly predict depression. Conclusion: These findings shed light on the role of internalizing early shame and lack of safeness memories into a sense of self as globally self-condemning in the vulnerability to experience depressive symptoms.

Corresponding author
Reprint requests to Marcela Matos, Cognitive-Behavioural Research Centre (CINEICC), Faculdade de Psicologia e Ciências da Educação, Universidade de Coimbra, Rua do Colégio Novo, Apartado 6153, 3001-802 Coimbra, Portugal. E-mail:
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