Sexual Harassment Severity: Assessing Situational and Personal Determinants and Outcomes1


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    Portions of this paper were presented at the 14th annual meeting of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology in Atlanta, Georgia, May 1999. The authors thank Suzanne Mazzeo and NiCole T. Buchanan for their invaluable assistance with this research. The research was supported, in part, by the United States Defense Manpower Data Center and by a Shannon Award from the National Institute of Mental Health, Grant #1 RO1 MH50791-01A2. Parts of the manuscript were completed while all authors were at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Regina Day Langhout, Department of Psychology, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT 06459. E-mail:


The current study bridges literatures on sexual harassment, person-environment systems, and stress and appraisal processes. Conventional wisdom equates severity of sexual harassment with type of harassment. We test this notion empirically and posit a more comprehensive model that examines both person- and situation-level variables. Data came from 13,743 U.S. Armed Forces women responding to survey questions about a significant experience of sexual harassment. Multiple regression results indicate that pervasiveness of sexual harassment relates outcomes better than does type of sexual harassment. Pervasiveness and type interact to predict subjective appraisal of harassment. Additionally, according to multiple-group structural equation models, appraisal mediates relations between pervasiveness and outcomes. Results further suggest that relations among sexual-harassment antecedents and outcomes are consistent, regardless of the type of sexual harassment. These findings highlight the importance of examining both persons and situations when assessing sexual harassment severity.