Negative Attributions as a Source of Vulnerability for trauma-related Shame and PTSD Symptoms

Rebecca Seah, David Berle*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Shame is a common trauma response that is associated with the development and maintenance of PTSD. Phenomenological descriptions of shame indicate that shame arises from internal, stable and global causal attributions (negative attributions) for the precipitating event. The current study investigated whether negative attributions would be associated with higher levels of shame and PTSD, and whether shame would mediate the relationship between causal attributions and PTSD. As negative attributions may reflect a common transdiagnostic process in both depression and PTSD, it also examined whether depression would moderate this relationship. Eighty-seven participants meeting criteria for a Criterion A stressor were administered a structured PTSD diagnostic interview and a series of self-report measures. Findings indicate that shame mediated the relationship between internal, stable and global trauma-related causal attributions and PTSD symptoms. Further, depression did not moderate this relationship, indicating that negative causal attributions are associated with shame and PTSD independent of depression. Results provide empirical support for the cognitive concomitants of trauma-related shame, which raise the possibility that addressing negative attributions through cognitive therapeutic methods may be pertinent in reducing trauma-related shame. Future prospective data is needed to establish cognitive antecedents to shame.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Rational - Emotive and Cognitive - Behavior Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


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