Date of Award

Spring 6-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Dr. Kenneth B. Matheny

Second Advisor

Dr. Julie R. Ancis

Third Advisor

Dr. Gregory Brack

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Phillip Gagne

Abstract

On a routine and daily basis, women are exposed to sexually objectifying experiences, which result in a number of harmful psychosocial outcomes (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). Five-hundred and forty-sex women attending a large, Southeastern university participated in this study that investigated a conceptual model of how childhood sexual abuse (CSA) contributes to sexual risk behaviors (SRBs) via self-objectification (S0). In order to assess the causal relationships among variables, measured variable path analyses were conducted in order to test two theoretical models. The following instruments were used in this investigation: the Sexual Abuse Subscale of the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (a measure assessing experiences of childhood sexual abuse [Bernstein, Stein, Newcomb, Walker, Pogge, Ahluvia et al., 2003]); the Body Surveillance Subscale of the Objectified Body Consciousness Scale (a measure assessing self-objectification [McKinley & Hyde, 1996]); the Body Shame Subscale of the Objectified Body Consciousness Scale (a measure assessing body shame [McKinley & Hyde, 1996]); the Toronto Alexithymia Scale-20 (assesses alexithymic symptoms, or difficulty identifying, describing, and expressing one’s emotions [Bagby, Parker, & Taylor, 1994]), the Contraceptive Self-Efficacy Scale (assesses overall sexual self-efficacy, such as the ability to insist upon sexual protection [Levinson, 1986]), and the Sexual Risk Survey (assesses risky sexual practices [Turkchik & Garske, 2009]). Results revealed that the data fit the second model better than the first. Specifically, data revealed that CSA directly predicted SRBs and was not mediated via SO, but was partially mediated by alexithymia and body shame. That is, CSA predicted increased alexithymia and body shame. Increased alexithymia predicted SRBs, whereas body shame decreased SRBs. Results also revealed that alexithymia and body shame mediated the relationship between SO and SRBs. Specifically, self-objectification led to increased alexithymia and body shame, and alexithymia increased SRBs while body shame decreased SRBs. Last, results revealed that body shame fully mediated the relationship between both CSA and SO and sexual self-efficacy. Pathways were significant at the p < .05 level.

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