Volume 54, Issue 1 p. 1-15
Original Article

Social anxiety, submissiveness, and shame in men and women: A moderated mediation analysis

Jacob Zimmerman

Jacob Zimmerman

Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

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Amanda S. Morrison

Amanda S. Morrison

Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

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Richard G. Heimberg

Corresponding Author

Richard G. Heimberg

Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Richard G. Heimberg, Department of Psychology, Adult Anxiety Clinic, Temple University, 1701 North 13th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122-6085, USA (email: [email protected]).Search for more papers by this author
First published: 28 May 2014
Citations: 30

Abstract

Objectives

Research suggests a positive relationship between social anxiety and shame; however, few studies have examined this relationship or potential mechanisms. Common behaviours of persons with social anxiety disorder (SAD), such as submissive behaviours, may be more consistent with societal expectations of women than men and therefore more likely to be associated with shame in socially anxious men than women. We examined the hypothesis that submissive behaviours would mediate the relationship between social anxiety and shame in men, but not in women, with SAD.

Design

Moderated mediation was examined in a cross-sectional dataset. Gender was modeled to moderate the paths from social anxiety to submissive behaviours and from submissive behaviours to shame. We also examined an alternative model of the relationships among these variables and the potential contributory role of depression.

Methods

Men (= 48) and women (n = 40) with SAD completed the Social Interaction Anxiety Scale, Submissive Behaviour Scale, Internalized Shame Scale, and Beck Depression Inventory.

Results

Analyses supported the hypothesized model. The relationship between submissive behaviours and shame was greater in men than women with SAD; the relationship between social anxiety and submissive behaviours was not. Controlling for depression, moderation remained evident although diminished. Results for the comparison model did not support gender moderation.

Conclusions

Submissive behaviours mediated the relationship between social anxiety and shame in men, but not women, with SAD. These findings provide preliminary evidence for a model of shame in SAD and may help to further elucidate specific features of SAD that differ between men and women.

Practitioner points

  • Although researchers have argued that the display of submissive behaviours might allow the socially anxious individual to limit or prevent attacks on the self, our results suggest that there are greater costs, with regard to feelings of shame, associated with such behaviours for men.
  • In men with SAD, the greater shame associated with submissive behaviours can be understood when considering that socially anxious individuals appear to be particularly concerned with concealing aspects of the self believed to violate perceived societal norms and that traditional masculine gender roles revolve around the theme of dominance.
  • Because the study was conducted in individuals with SAD, it is possible that the restricted range of social anxiety severity may have precluded the observation of gender differences in the relationship between social anxiety and submissive behaviour.
  • Measures were administered in a cross-sectional design, which limits potential inferences of causality.