Assessing Burdening Guilt and Its Correlates

Jessica Leonardi, Psy.D., Francesco Gazzillo, Ph.D., Bernard Gorman, Ph.D., and Marshall Bush, Ph.D.

Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 51(4), 479–499, 2023
© 2023 The American Academy of Psychodynamic Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis


Burdening guilt refers to the belief that one’s emotions, needs, and ways of being are a burden to others, and is one type of interpersonal guilt proposed by the control-mastery theory (CMT). The aim of this article is to validate two new measures of burdening guilt. In the two studies conducted, we examined the psychometric properties of these scales and the relationship between bur- dening guilt and self-perceived burden (burdensomeness), self-esteem, shame, anxiety, depression, mental health, attachment insecurity, adverse childhood experiences, social desirability, empathy, and suicidal ideation. In Study 1, we presented a newly developed Burdening Guilt Rating Scale (BGRS) and its correlation with measures of the abovementioned dimensions. In Study 2 we verified, through confirmatory factor analysis and correlation techniques, the possibility of expanding the Interpersonal Guilt Rating Scale-15 with a shorter, 5-item burdening guilt scale derived from the BGRS, and showed that this shorter scale correlates similarly to the longer one. Findings allowed us to validate these new scales providing empirical measures of burdening guilt—a theoretical concept with important clinical implications.

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