They signal to the child that his behavior is right or wrong according to the rules that govern the world he lives in, thus serving as sign posts along the youngster’s path to social acceptance. He feels shame; for example, when he believes that someone he cares about has been him do something that he knows is not allowed. Deep inside he may fear the loss of love and respect, and he will very likely either consciously or subconsciously adjust his behavior in the future to avoid that distressing possibility.
Guilt, by contrast, wells up in the socialized youngster when he senses privately that he has violated a rule and fears that punishment may result, or if the child realizes that he has failed to meet his own internalized standards of behavior. Because the process of absorbing other peoples standards and making them truly your own takes time, guilt is usually the last social emotion to mature.
Both shame and guilt are negative emotions, sufficiently unpleasant that the socially mature child will eventually learn to avoid the antisocial behaviors that trigger them. The emotion of pride on the other hand, comes when the child knows that he has measured up to the group’s expectations. It rewards the child with good feelings, encouraging him to repeat the behavior that brought them on. Over time, these social emotions become powerful forces in molding the child’s overall personality, in determining how well he succeeds in play, at school, in his family life.