Experiences of shame by race and culture: An exploratory study

Published in: Journal of Psychology in Africa
Volume 27, issue 4, 2017 , pages: 362–366
DOI: 10.1080/14330237.2017.1347759
Author(s): Claude-Hélène MayerLehrstuhl für Sprachgebrauch und Therapeutische Kommunikation, Germany, Rian ViviersDepartment of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, South Africa


This study explored experiences of shame in the context of racial and cultural belonging. Participants were a multiracial purposive sample of 11 South Africans (five females and six males, four white, two coloured, two Indian and three black Africans; in the age range between 40 to 61 years). The participants completed a semi-structured interview on their perceptions of shame in the context of family and community. The interview data were analysed utilising interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA). Participants from all racial groups considered shame experiences primarily in relation to violation of family and community norms and values. Findings show that male white Afrikaans-speaking participants narrated shameful experiences mainly with regard to the violation of religious (Calvinist) norms and values. Furthermore, the violation of racially constructed boundaries was also likely with females with an Indian and white Afrikaans culture background. Overall, the findings suggest white Afrikaans culture to be less shaming of individuals in comparison to black, coloured, or Indian cultures. Shame beliefs appear to be culturally nuanced in their salience to members or racial-ethno groupings.

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