Gender Differences in Mother-Child Conversations About Shame and Pride in a Hungarian Sample


  • Melinda Pohárnok
  • András Láng


Although meta-analytic reviews repeatedly found significant gender differences in the experiences of shame and pride throughout the life span, to date, gender differences in conversations about these emotions have not been studied. Our research was aimed at investigating the effect of child gender on maternal conversational style in and emotional content of mother-child conversations about shame- and pride-related past events in preschool years. Fifty four mother—preschool child dyads (52% girls, children’s age M = 70.36 months [SD = 8.13], mothers’ age M = 37.51 years [SD = 3.70]) from middle class Hungarian families were asked to talk about two past events, one in which children felt ashamed, and one in which they felt proud. The conversations were transcribed and coded for maternal conversational style and for emotional content. Maternal conversational style was indicated by maternal elaboration and evaluation of the child’s contributions. Emotional content was indicated by specific emotion terms, emotional behavior and emotional evaluations. In mother-son shame conversations, we found higher amount of negative emotional behavior. Boys also had longer conversations with their mothers, and mothers used more open-ended memory questions and more repetitions with boys in both shame and pride conversations. Girls had shorter contributions to pride stories than to shame stories, which was not the case for boys. Exploration of verbal socialization of shame and pride helps us to understand the development of individual differences in proneness to self-conscious emotions, and their implications for mental health.