The Vicious Circle of Age Shame: Stigma and Vulnerability

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Throughout the lifespan of the average human, shame, guilt, and pride tend to consistently relate to psychological well-being, albeit much of the literature debates the prospect of shame decreasing with maturity. As people age, they become more prone to experiencing psychologically adaptive self-conscious emotions that contribute to their personality development and eventual self-acceptance. However, this is often not the case when an individual succumbs to the decline of physical and/or mental functioning. The experience and expression of shame, as well as the individual or collective handling of shame, depends in a special way on cultural factors. For this reason, the aim of this chapter is to critically examine how cultural values and norms can play a significant role in the development and processing of feelings of shame, especially in older people. It draws on autoethnography to present a critical self-reflexive narrative to explore how such emotions influence the lives of individuals and those around them, from adolescence to old age. In doing so, the chapter synthesizes the experiences of two culturally varying individuals and their understanding of expressions of shame. The methodological approach illustrates how two narratives can cross diverse cultural boundaries and highlight the impact that feelings of shame can have on patriarchal and matriarchal values. The narratives also reveal gender differences within close familial dynamics and within the general social engagements of older people.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationShame and Aging in a Transforming World
PublisherSpringer Nature Switzerland AG
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Sept 2023


  • Shame
  • Ageing
  • Gender
  • Masculinity
  • Culture
  • Matriarchy


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