Negative self-conscious emotion and grief: An actor–partner analysis in couples bereaved by stillbirth or neonatal death


Peter Barr, Department of Neonatology, Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children (e-mail:


Objectives. The purpose of the present study was to examine the intrapersonal (actor) and interpersonal (partner) relationships of personality proneness to negative self-conscious emotion (shame and guilt) to grief in couples 13 months after a perinatal death.

Design. A cohort study using self-report questionnaire measures of grief, shame, and guilt.

Methods. The participants were 63 Australian couples bereaved by stillbirth (N= 31) or neonatal death (N= 32). The actor and partner relationships of chronic shame (Personal Feelings Questionnaire-2), situational shame (Test of Self-Conscious Affect-2), and survivor guilt and omnipotence guilt (Interpersonal Guilt Questionnaire-67) to grief (Perinatal Grief Scale-33) were explored using the Actor–Partner Interdependence Model (APIM) method of dyadic analysis.

Results. The correlations between the self-conscious emotions and grief were invariably larger in men compared with women. Chronic shame had a significant actor relationship with grief in women and men and a non-significant partner relationship in both sexes. Situational shame and survivor guilt had significant actor relationships with grief in men and significant partner relationships in women. Omnipotence guilt had a significant linear actor relationship with grief in men and a significant U-shaped quadratic actor relationship in women.

Conclusions. Negative self-conscious emotions had intrapersonal relationship with grief in men and both intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships with grief in women. A moderate level of omnipotence guilt was associated with lower grief in women. APIM dyadic analysis furthers understanding of the relationship between personality and parental grief following a perinatal death.