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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Emotional processes in online parent learning : examining the impact of shame and countering self-related appraisals on parent learning outcomes Low, Sok Yee (Angela)


Online parenting workshops are important contexts of learning for today’s parents. Responses to such workshops are varied, the same information can leave some parents feeling empowered and others distressed, affecting their capacity for learning. Existing research suggests that parents may be especially prone to feeling the self-conscious emotions of shame and guilt, which are associated with certain cognitive appraisals and response tendencies that may impact learning processes. Applying shame theories to the context of parent education, this study tested the efficacy of an intervention designed to counter shame and examined the effects of shame and self-related appraisals on learning outcomes in an online parenting workshop. Two groups of parents completed a self-paced workshop that included an activity and a video expected to evoke shame or guilt. The experimental group (n = 116) was provided with messages designed to counter shame appraisals during the workshop, while the comparison group (n = 124) did not receive such messages. Results showed that parents who received the shame-countering messages scored higher in a post-workshop knowledge test than those who did not. Furthermore, regression analyses revealed that shame negatively impacted learning outcomes whereas guilt contributed positively to them. Guilt seemed especially adaptive for parents reporting high levels of shame, buffering the impact of shame on their learning outcomes. Parents’ appraisals of the workshop as exposing their flaws and failings (appraisals of inadequacy) and as a reminder to be a better parent (appraisals of self-improvement) were both found to predict feelings of guilt, but only appraisals of inadequacy as a parent predicted shame. These self-appraisals had distinct effects on learning outcomes. Parents who felt that the workshop exposed their inadequacies reported lower receptivity, engagement, motivation to repair and knowledge test scores. Thinking that one should be a better parent predicted higher ratings across all learning outcomes and seemed to buffer the negative impact of making self-appraisals of inadequacy on learning outcomes. Overall, the findings suggest that shame, guilt and self-related appraisals play important roles in parents’ learning processes and specific implications of these emotions in the context of parent education are discussed.

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