Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The link between depressive symptoms and guilt induction, and the subsequent effects on partner accommodation and tolerance of intimate partner violence

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posted on 2021-12-09, 09:14 authored by Harrison, Bryony

Guilt induction is a behaviour involving exaggeration of hurt feelings to elicit guilt in an intimate partner, and thus elicit a reassuring and loving response. This thesis investigates whether greater depressive symptoms are linked with use of low level, everyday guilt induction. We also examine the possibility that guilt induction elicits commitment-driven maintenance behaviour from partners, including accommodation (e.g., smiling, providing encouragement) but also increased tolerance for intimate partner violence. We tested a mediation model in which higher depressive symptoms predicted greater of guilt induction, which in turn predicted greater partner accommodation (Study 1) and tolerance of intimate partner violence (Study 2). We assessed observer-coded guilt induction behaviours in a dyadic study (Study 1; 152 couples) and experiences of partner guilt induction in self-report questionnaires (Study 2; 217 individuals). Depressive symptoms predicted greater use of guilt induction (Study 1), and perceptions of partner’s depressive symptoms predicted more experiences of partner guilt induction (Study 2), suggesting that individuals higher in depressive symptoms experience insecurities consistent with motivations to guilt induce. Guilt induction predicted greater use of immediate partner accommodation (Study 1), and experiences of guilt induction predicted greater tolerance for one of four forms of intimate partner violence (Study 2). This suggests that guilt induction elicits accommodation of negative behaviours, including tolerance of certain types of intimate partner violence. An additional analysis highlighted a change in partner behaviour from increased accommodation when guilt induction initially occurred, to relatively decreased accommodation at the following time point, 30 seconds later (Study 1). This research supports and expands on prior theory suggesting people higher in depressive symptomology tend to use strategies to gain reassurance and care that can ultimately backfire.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Science

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology


Hammond, Matt