Exploring the Structure of Impelling Risk Factors for Sexual Aggression: Integration of Normal & Pathological Personality Traits
Sexual aggression occurs at alarming rates on college campuses, wherein upwards of one-third of college women report some form of sexual victimization during their college careers. While individuals of any gender may perpetrate or experience sexual aggression, this form of violence is disproportionately perpetrated by men against women. Numerous risk factors for perpetrating sexual aggression have been identified, with prominent etiological, conceptual, and explanatory models of sexual aggression all emphasizing the role of impelling risk factors—which includes dispositional or personality traits that may serve to increase proclivity to sexually aggress, as well as attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions that contribute to sexually aggressive behaviors. Despite the proliferation of research on impelling risk factors for perpetrating sexual aggression, there is little consensus on how these constructs are operationalized and to what extent similarities and dissimilarities exist between existing measures of impellance for sexual aggression. Therefore, first aim of the present study seeks to examine the underlying factor structure of impelling risk factors for sexual aggression perpetration. Importantly, personality traits may represent an important non-specific impellor for sexual aggression; yet few researchers have examined the role of normal and pathological personality traits in predicting perpetration of sexual aggression, despite the robust literature on the role of personality in predicting other forms of aggression and violence. As a result, the present study also examined the role of both normal and pathological personality traits in independently and while controlling for the effect of emergent factors of impellance in predicting sexually-aggressive outcomes. Furthermore, exploratory analyses were conducted to examine the incremental validity of emergent factors of impellance above and beyond the role normal and pathological personality traits in predicting sexually-aggressive outcomes. Participants included N = 275 men between the ages of 18 and 26 from a large public university in the midwestern region of the United States, who completed an online survey assessing impelling risk factors for sexual aggression, normal personality, pathological personality, coercive condom use resistance, sexual-intimate partner violence, sexual assault perpetration, sexual objectification, and post-refusal sexual coercion. Results from the principal component analysis suggested that a three-factor solution best explained the variance in existing measures of impellance. Results from regression analyses indicated that normal personality significantly predicted all five sexually-aggressive outcomes, and that pathological personality significantly predict four of the study’s sexually-aggressive outcomes. After controlling for the effect of impelling risk factors for sexual aggression, both normal and pathological personality traits only accounted for additional variance not explained by measures of impellance for coercive condom use resistance and sexual objectification. Broadly, results identifying the underlying factor structure of impellance align with existing theoretical models of sexual aggression; however, results from the present study also extend these models by presenting a more granular, nuanced, and differentiated view of risk factors that were previously conceptualized to perform similarly. In addition, results from the present study underscore the importance of both normal and pathological personality traits in predicting sexually-aggressive outcomes. Despite this, results from the present study also suggest that after accounting for impelling risk factors of sexual aggression, personality may only help predict minimal additional variance in sexually-aggressive outcomes. Implications for both the screening and assessment of men at risk of perpetration sexually aggression, as well as recommendations for the prevention of sexual violence are discussed.
Eckhardt, Purdue University.
Behavioral psychology|Personality psychology|Criminology
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