NACD Science Corner

Science Corner Vol. 9 – Evidence That Sending a Child on a Guilt Trip Has Long-Lasting, Negative Effects

NACD Science Corner


A recent research article published in The Journal of Family Psychology reported the use of guilt-inducing parenting causes distress and anger that is still measurable the next day. Guilt-inducing parenting is when a parent tries to impact a child’s behavior by trying to make them feel guilty. An example might be when a child won’t eat his dinner and the parent says, “I work all day long in order to buy that food for you, and you are just going to waste it?” Other examples would include any manner in which the parent displays he/she is ashamed of a child’s bad behavior. The study was conducted with 152 children in the first grade by using a diary questionnaire filled out every day for a week by both the mother and father. Although the research demonstrates that there are ill-effects of guilt-inducing parenting from either the mother or father, the effects from the father appear to be especially bad on the child. The report also describes that guilt-inducing parenting is more typical for parents who are exhausted or undergoing distress themselves.

When a child engages in inappropriate behavior, what could a parent do instead? The parent should give the child a consequence and consistently give the child the consequence every time the child misbehaves. Indeed, the study reported that such direct limit-setting parenting does not have the long-lasting negative effects that guilt-inducing parenting has. There is no need to have a long discussion with the child about the behavior beyond what not to do and why the behavior is inappropriate, because any discussion beyond that can be self-defeating and possibly turns the behavior into a negative attention-getting behavior. Meanwhile, the parents should define clear, concise expectations and provide positive reinforcement for good behavior. Look for your child doing what is good, and praise your child for that. Overall, NACD emphasizes creating a positive environment, which is defined by four positive responses to every negative response the child receives.

To learn more about how you can establish a positive environment in your home, please read our article here.


Parent induces guilt, child shows distress (2013). AlphaGalileo Foundation. Academy of Finland.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Similar Posts