The role of shame in distinguishing perpetrators of intimate partner violence in U.S. veterans


  • Natalie E. Hundt,

    Corresponding author
    1. Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Houston, Texas, USA
    2. Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA
    3. South Central Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center, Houston, Texas, USA
    4. Houston Center for Quality of Care and Utilization Studies, Houston, Texas, USA
    • 2002 Holcombe Blvd, Houston, TX 77030.
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  • Dana R. Holohan

    1. VA Medical Center, Center for Traumatic Stress, Salem, Virginia, USA
    2. Department of Psychiatry, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
    3. Department of Psychiatry, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Roanoke, Virginia, USA
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Increasing attention is being paid to the fact that exposure to traumatic stressors in military combat may lead to perpetration of intimate partner violence (IPV). Because shame has been identified as a factor in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the current cross-sectional study examined the relationship in U.S. veterans between IPV and PTSD, depression, guilt, and shame. We hypothesized that shame would be the strongest correlate of perpetration of IPV and that shame would mediate the relationship between PTSD and IPV. Participants were 264 primarily male and Caucasian mixed-era veterans presenting for psychological treatment at a Veterans Affairs hospital. They completed standard measures of depression, PTSD symptoms, shame, and guilt and a local checklist was used to dichotomize the sample regarding IPV. Discriminant analysis indicated that shame contributed most (standardized canonical discriminant function coefficient = .44) to distinguishing perpetrators of IPV. In addition, the results were consistent with shame as a mediator of the relationship between PTSD and IPV. These results are in line with studies indicating that shame is linked to IPV perpetration in nonveteran samples (Harmon, 2002; Rand, 2004; Schibik, 2002) and suggests that shame may be an important aspect of the relationship between PTSD and IPV.