Date of Award

8-2008

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Amy Naugle

Abstract

Several variables have been investigated over the past years as risk factors for sexual aggression. Among them, substance use/abuse, family environment, attitudes towards women, and lack of empathy. Although researchers have identified several risk factors, predicting aggressive behaviors continues to be a difficult task. One variable that has received less attention in the literature is men's emotion recognition skills. Do men's emotion recognition skills affect their propensity to aggress?

The purpose of this study was to investigate emotion recognition skills/deficits and how such skills predict propensity to engage in sexually coercive behavior. There were two main goals of this study. The first goal was to investigate variables that predict emotion recognition skills in a sample of college men. The second goal was to investigate variables that predict endorsement of sexually coercive behaviors among the sample. Participants were male college students. Emotion recognition skills were assessed by examining men's responses to various facial expressions (accuracy and latency), each of which depicted a specific emotion. In addition, scores on the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS) were also used as a way of measuring emotion recognition skills/deficits. This line of research may contribute to the literature by identifying possible skills (i.e., emotion recognition skills) that aid in understanding risk for sexual aggression and better inform prevention and treatment strategies for reducing sexually coercive behaviors. Results indicated that dysfunctional childhood environment, emotion regulation skill deficits, and alcohol use predicted self-reported emotion recognition deficits in men as measured by the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS). Alcohol use was a significant predictor of latency in responding to emotional stimuli across clusters (positive, negative, and neutral) as well as average latency in responding to negative emotional expressions. In terms of sexually coercive behaviors, results indicated that dysfunctional childhood environments and emotion recognition skill deficits (as measured by TAS scores and average latency across emotional clusters) predicted endorsement of sexually coercive behaviors. In addition, dysfunctional childhood environment, attitudinal variables, emotion recognition skills, and alcohol use predicted endorsement of sexually coercive behaviors. Attitudinal variables contributed the most to the sexually coercive behavior variance.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

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