IN HARM'S WAY: FACTORS RELATED TO PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTRESS FOLLOWING SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Authors


  • Linda L. Collinsworth, Counseling Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign; Louise F. Fitzgerald and Fritz Drasgow, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign.

  • This article is based on the doctoral dissertation research of the first author. Linda L. Collinsworth is now at Millikin University.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Linda L. Collinsworth, Millikin University, 1184 W. Main Street, Decatur, IL 62522. E-mail: lcollinsworth@millikin.edu

Abstract

The negative consequences for victims of sexual harassment are well documented. However, one area unexamined is the process that leads to harm. Researchers have proposed three influences (i.e., objective or stimulus factors, individual factors, and contextual factors) on the psychological, health-related, and organizational outcomes of sexual harassment. This article examines the relative contribution of these influences on psychological distress following sexual harassment. Two studies were conducted. First, we examined approximately 1,200 women in a financial industry class-action lawsuit. A series of hierarchical regressions and subsequent dominance analysis revealed that the severity of the experiences and attributions made about them were the most important influences on symptoms of psychological distress. Study 2 examined 85 female plaintiffs in sexual harassment litigation. Dominance analysis again showed that the magnitude of their experiences had the strongest relationship with distress. Implications of these findings are discussed.

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