Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

George W. Burruss, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John K. Cochran, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Richard K. Moule, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Maimon, Ph.D.


Cybercrime, Cybersecurity, Rational Choice, Situational Crime Prevention, Target Hardening, Theoretical Integration


The current study, using structural equation modeling, assesses the processual relationship between thoughtfully reflective decision making (TRDM), theoretical constructs derived from protection motivation theory (PMT), cyber hygiene, and online victimization to determine the cognitive decision-making process that leads to the adoption of online self-protective behaviors, which reduces the occurrence of victimization experiences. Findings, derived from a general sample of Internet users in the United States, reveal: (1) engagement in cyber hygiene practices, as a form of target hardening, decreases Internet users’ experiences with online victimization; (2) thoughtfully reflective decision makers, in the face of cyber threats, develop higher threat appraisals and coping appraisals (i.e., perceived response efficacy); (3) Internet users’ threat appraisals and perceived response efficacy increase engagement in cyber hygiene practices; and (4) TRDM directly, and indirectly through Internet users’ threat appraisals and perceived response efficacy, increases engagement in cyber hygiene practices. Results presented in the current study aid theoretical development in the field of criminology by: (1) demonstrating the effectiveness of target hardening practices (i.e., cyber hygiene) at reducing online victimization experiences; (2) expanding the scope of TRDM by demonstrating the theoretical construct’s predictive efficacy on the adoption of online self-protective behaviors, an endogenous variable of widespread importance in the information security literature; and (3) integrating interrelated propositions from TRDM and PMT to provide a more robust theoretical model capable of predicting self-protection in cyberspace. Finally, the current study provides policy makers the information needed to configure the cyber-environment in a manner that will promote self-protection and decrease the frequency of cybercrime incidents.