Special News Archive


June 4th, 2019

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Today, June 4th 2019, Evelien Broekhof defended her PhD dissertation. Evelien's research reveals that adolescents with autism or hearing loss experience less shame and guilt than their peers, and this may have important implications.

We all experience shame and guilt at one time or another, and these emotions serve an important function: to communicate regret for our actions. Shame and guilt ensure that we follow societal rules and norms, allowing us to function well within our social context. Evelien's research examined the role of shame and guilt in the development of aggresssion throughout adolescence.

Evelien's research revealed that guilt plays an important role in preventing aggression. Specifically, guilt ensures that adolescents do not engage in bullying behaviour. Shame, on the other hand, is related to increased reactive aggression, whereby it causes adolescents to fight back when provoked in some way.

Shame and guilt are generally learned through interactions with the social world. However, youngsters with autism or hearing loss have less access to their social world, meaning they have less opportunity to learn about emotions. Indeed, Evelien's research revealed that adolescents with autism or hearing loss experience less shame and guilt, suggesting that access to the social world is vital to the development of these emotions. Despite this, young people with autism or hearing loss do not engage in more aggressive behaviour than others, Evelien explains:

"This is very positive news. It means the guilty feeling experienced, even though they are present to a lesser extent, also play an important role in preventing aggression in these groups" 

Congratulations on the fantastic research Evelien, and best of luck in your defence today. You can read more about Evelien's research on the Leiden University website (in Dutch).