The Limits Of Shame

Adam Serwer responds to Dreher's post on stigmatizing having children out of wedlock:

Conservatives regularly overestimate the beneficial effects of shame. Shame provokes response in the form of impulse, not long term planning. A person who is ashamed isn't going to think, "I'd better get a degree" or "I'd better get married," they're going to think in the short term about what they can do to rectify their sense of self-worth.

How do you see people--men in particular--act when they're ashamed? You rarely see them do something like get married or get a fantastic job; usually they're going to hurt or exploit someone, make them feel as low as they do--this is the lesson learned by the shamed from the shamer, regardless of the lesson the shamer thinks they're teaching the shamed.

I'm not sure it's possible to encourage beneficial social behavior without in some ways discouraging destructive behavior. The key is emphasis. And a little positive reinforcement often goes a long way.