Cultural differences and shame in an expressive writing alcohol intervention

Lindsey M. Rodriguez, Chelsie M. Young, Clayton Neighbors, Reese Tou, Qian Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The present study evaluates the relationships between shame, culture, and drinking behavior in predicting drinking intentions in the context of an expressive writing intervention. Theory and empirical findings have generally found that shame is maladaptive and can lead to anxiety, depression, and problematic alcohol use. However, research on cultural differences suggests that shame may be differentially damaging to individuals of collectivist, Asian cultures. Previous research evaluating expressive writing as a brief alcohol intervention has shown promising results such as reduced drinking intentions and increased readiness to change drinking behavior. The present study tested the hypothesis that feelings of shame after writing about a negative heavy drinking event would be associated with greater alcohol use generally and that this effect would differ for Caucasian compared to Asian individuals. We also explored whether this differed for light and heavy drinkers. Two hundred sixty-four undergraduates (74% female) who drank at least one alcoholic beverage in the past month completed measures of demographics, baseline drinking, event-related shame and guilt, pre- and postwriting affect, and drinking intentions. Results revealed that, independent of affect, social desirability, and event-related guilt, shame was generally negatively associated with drinking intentions for Caucasians and light drinking Asians. However, for heavy drinking Asians, shame was associated with increased drinking intentions. Results suggest that interventions that elicit shame are differentially effective and should be targeted accordingly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)252-267
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)


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