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Social Cognitive Shame Theory: Understanding Shame and Society

Krista Robbins, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Social oppression has become socially normative with immense consequences for mental health and career development. To better understand how oppressive social norms lead to negative mental health and career development outcomes, this dissertation introduces social cognitive shame theory (SCST) for understanding the consequences of living in a society that promotes oppressive social norms and social disenfranchisement. SCST describes how oppressive social norms and the internalization of these norms lead to negative mental health and career development outcomes, with shame mediating these relations. Empirical evidence and theory are outlined to provide support for theory development. Additionally, a model of SCST is tested to further explore the theory’s utility. The tested model asserts that when gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals (i.e., sexual minorities) experience heterosexist norms, this leads to the internalization of heterosexist norms, which then leads to negative mental health and career development outcomes with shame as a key mediator in these relations. Results from the analyses provide further support for the development and utilization of SCST. Specifically, indirect relations between internalized heterosexism and a) depression, b) anxiety, c) career self-efficacy, and d) career outcome expectations emerged as significant with shame fully mediating each of these relations.

Subject Area

Counseling Psychology

Recommended Citation

Robbins, Krista, "Social Cognitive Shame Theory: Understanding Shame and Society" (2018). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10846123.