Behaving Aggressively: The Role of Shame in Prisoner Confrontations: The role of shame in prisoner confrontations

Michelle Butler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Numerous researchers suggest that the experience of shame is linked to aggressive behaviour (see Scheff, 2000; Scheff & Retzinger, 1991; Tangney & Dearing, 2002). In this paper, prisoner self-narratives are explored to determine whether the presence of shame in their identity influenced their involvement in confrontations. The self-narratives of 89 adult male prisoners were examined to determine whether the prisoners expressed themes of shame in their self-narratives, the types of shame they experienced and if these experiences of shame influenced their involvement in confrontations with other prisoners. Results indicate that individuals expressing themes of shame in their self-narrative were more likely to engage in confrontations than those who did not express such themes. In particular, those who were insecure in their sense of self seemed to be more likely to react aggressively to behaviours which undermined their identity and were more likely to feel pressurised to conform to prisoner norms of masculinity and aggressiveness. This suggests that the expereince of shame may predispose individuals with an insecure self to engage in confrontations as a means of ego defence. Potential ramifications and limitations are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychology of Neuroticism and Shame
EditorsR. Jackson
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9781608768707
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Publication series

NamePsychology of Emotions, Motivations and Actions

Bibliographical note

Chapter Number: 5


  • Aggression
  • Prison
  • Shame: Sense of Self: Insecurity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Psychology(all)


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