Childhood Maltreatment History as a Risk Factor for Sexual Harassment Among U.S. Army Soldiers

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Abstract

Four different types of childhood maltreatment were examined as predictors of unwanted sexual experiences and acknowledged sexual harassment among male and female active duty soldiers in the United States Army. Predictor variables included childhood sexual abuse, physical-emotional abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect. Three types of unwanted sexual experiences in the workplace were examined as outcome variables: gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention, and coercion. Both sexual and physical-emotional abuse during childhood were found to be predictors of unwanted sexual experiences and of acknowledged sexual harassment in the workplace. Among female soldiers, the most severe type of unwanted experience—coercion—was predicted only by childhood physical-emotional abuse. Among male soldiers childhood sexual abuse was the strongest predictor of coercion. A greater variety of types of childhood maltreatment predicted sexual harassment outcomes for male soldiers. Childhood maltreatment and adult sexual harassment were predictors of psychological well-being for soldiers of both genders.

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