Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Dr. Marc Karver, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Edelyn Verona, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jack Darkes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jennifer Bosson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michelle Hughes Miller, Ph.D.


college women, sexual harassment


The ambiguous nature of social interactions between coeds may lead to under reporting of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment has been studied using mostly cross-sectional methods for over 30 years. However, despite decades of research, prevalence rates of sexual harassment have been found to vary considerably across and within studies. This inconsistency in findings makes drawing conclusions about the prevalence of sexual harassment challenging. Thus, the focus of the field should shift to identifying what behaviors are perceived to be sexual harassment and how that perception may vary by context. To reduce the ambiguity surrounding the labeling of an interaction as sexual harassment, experiments are needed to isolate unique facets of an interaction. Developing a greater understanding of what occurs when someone is sexually harassed is warranted given that the occurrence of sexual harassment has numerous negative consequences for everyone involved. Cognitive appraisals and changes in negative emotional affect were examined in undergraduate women. Participants were randomly assigned to either a control (non-sexual harassment interaction) or experimental (sexual harassment) condition that utilized validated video stimuli developed by the researcher. Context was also manipulated as both behavioral interactions took place in a classroom setting and a party setting. Learning the internal processes that occur during the event-moment of sexual harassment can lead to the development and dissemination of guidelines for college students regarding what constitutes sexual harassment within and across contexts. Results from this line of research can inform prevention programming for college students.