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Infant feeding and internalized stigma: the role of guilt and shame

Infant feeding and internalized stigma: the role of guilt and shame

Russell, Pascale Sophie ORCID: 0000-0002-4980-4742, Birtel, Michele D. ORCID: 0000-0002-2383-9197, Smith, Debbie M. ORCID: 0000-0001-7875-1582, Hart, Kathryn ORCID: 0000-0001-7494-9866 and Newman, Rebecca (2021) Infant feeding and internalized stigma: the role of guilt and shame. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 51 (9). pp. 906-919. ISSN 0021-9029 (doi:

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Globally the rates of breastfeeding duration are extremely low and postnatal mental health issues are common. As a result, it is important to examine the emotions that underlie these matters. Across two studies (one correlational study N= 160 and one experimental study N= 118), we examined participants’ experiences of shame and guilt when feeding their baby, and the relationship between these emotions with breastfeeding behaviors and internalized stigma. We also examined the psychosocial factors that predict internalized stigma, and whether shame and guilt mediate these relationships. We focused on three factors that have been shown to be associated with internalized stigma in other domains: self-esteem and social support (Study 1), as well as self-efficacy (Study 2). Multiple regression revealed that experienced guilt uniquely predicted a shorter duration of exclusive breastfeeding (Study 1). Higher self-efficacy (Study 2), self-esteem, and perceived social support (Study 1) predicted lower internalized stigma of feeding choice. We found that shame was a mediator for the self-esteem and internalized stigma relationship (Study 1), while guilt was a me-diator for the self-efficacy and internalized stigma relationship (Study 2). Our findings highlight the importance of experienced shame and guilt in mothers’ infant feeding experiences. The current results can inform future research and the design of inter-ventions to improve breastfeeding rates and reduce feelings of stigma.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: infant feeding, stigma
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > School of Human Sciences (HUM)
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2022 08:30

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