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  8. »Mary Jo Litten, Ph.D.

Department of Psychological Sciences

Mary Jo Litten, Ph.D.

Advisor: Dr. Leon Rappoport

Dissertation Title

Personality and situational factors influencing the sexual harassment of women by men

Dissertation Abstract

The present study investigated the phenomenon of the sexual harassment of women by men. One hundred and twelve undergraduate males at Kansas State University participated in the study designed to investigate the role of personality, situations, and their interaction in males' potential for the sexually exploitative form of sexual harassment (i.e., quid pro quo). A more abstract, theoretical aim of this study was to seek evidence for the view that sexual harassment of women by men is a form of prejudice. Duckitt's (1992) theoretical conceptualization of the components of prejudice served as the vehicle through which this aim was implemented.

The role of personality factors in harassment potential was investigated via standard multiple regression in which Altemeyer's (1993) Right-Wing Authoritarianism scale, a Personality-Composite comprised of participants' combined scores across the Defendence, Succorance, Aggression, and Impulsivity subscales of Jackson's (1989) Personality Research Form-E, Burt's (1980) Adversarial Sexual Beliefs (ASB) scale, and the Negative Masculinity subscale of Spence, Helmreich, and Holahan's (1979) Extended-Personality Attributes Questionnaire as predictors of Pryor's (1987) Likelihood of Sexual Harassment scale explained 18% of harassment-potential (i.e., LSH variance; p $<$.0002); however, only the ASB was a significant predictor. Results of an exploratory standard multiple regression utilizing a Scenarios-Composite variable, the Aggression subscale, and Adversarial Sexual Beliefs as predictors explained some 47% of LSH harassment-potential variance, with both the Scenarios-Composite and Aggression contributing significantly to explained variance (p $<$.0001).

Results of a 3 (high, average, and low harassment-potential groups) by 2 (Scenarios; low and high situational-influence) analysis of variance with repeated measures on Scenarios were significant, indicating that 6% (p $<$.04) of the variance in the Scenarios was explained by the Personality (harassment-potential groups) by Situations (situational scenarios) interaction, 49% by Personality (p $<$.0001), and 20% by Situations (p $<$.0002).

Analysis of the study's results suggests that Duckitt's (1992) theoretical analysis of prejudice is in some respects substantially relevant to sexual harassment of women by men; however it cannot be applied effectively in other respects.


Ph.D., Psychology, Kansas State University, 1994