Types of guilt
The most common forms of guilt are related to situations where we cause harm to others. Stemming from this, it is normal that this arouses feelings of empathy for the people we may have harmed, which tend to turn into feelings of guilt when we recognise that we are responsible for their suffering.
A previous study, also headed by Itziar Etxebarria, analyses people's experiences of guilt, differentiating two components one of these being empathetic (sorrow for the person we have harmed in some way) and the other anxious-aggressive (unease and contained aggression).
The anxious-aggressive kind of guilt is more common in people who have been raised in a more blame-imposing environment, and who are governed by stricter rules about behaviour in general and aggression in particular. "It seems obvious that this component will be more intense among women, and especially in older women", says Etxebarria.
The greater presence of this component among women, above all those aged between 40 and 50, explains the marked differences in the intensity of habitual guilt in this age group, "just at the age when males move towards females in the two indices of interpersonal sensitivity analysed", she explains.
"Educational practices and a whole range of socialising agents must be used to reduce the trend towards anxious-aggressive guilt among women and to strengthen interpersonal sensitivity among men", concludes the researcher.
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology