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The Association Between Self-forgiveness and Alcohol Misuse Depends on the Severity of Drinker's Shame: Toward a Buffering Model

Ianni, Phillip A. BA; Hart, Kenneth E. PhD; Hibbard, Stephen PhD; Carroll, Michelle PhD

Addictive Disorders & Their Treatment: September 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 3 - p 106-111
doi: 10.1097/ADT.0b013e3181f158cd
Original Articles

Objectives We examined whether symptoms of pathologic drinking are positively related to the subjective experience of shame and negatively related to self-forgiveness. We also tested a theory-based prediction that the association of alcohol misuse to self-forgiveness would be especially pronounced among individuals scoring high on shame.

Methods Five hundred sixty-seven college students provided self-report data pertaining to the variables of interest.

Results Shame moderated the association between alcohol and self-forgiveness. Specifically, high levels of self-forgiveness were related to low levels of alcohol misuse, but only within the high-shame subgroup.

Conclusions These findings tentatively suggest the ability to forgive oneself may reduce the likelihood of alcohol and other drug abuse among people who experience high levels of shame. Pending replication, secondary prevention intervention research may wish to test whether inculcation of self-forgiveness is a health protective form of emotion-focused coping that produces therapeutic benefits in substance abusers who are not yet in treatment and who have a shame-based identity.

Department of Psychology

University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Disclosure of Funding: This study was not funded.

Reprints: Kenneth E. Hart, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada (e-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.