Gender and racial characteristics as mediators in attributing responsibility for child sexual abuse

Date of Completion

January 1997


Social Work|Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies




This study utilized identical written vignettes to examine the impact of gender of respondent, race of victim, and gender of victim on college students' attitudes and attributions about child sexual abuse (CSA). The present study also evaluated the impact of respondents' prejudicial attitudes and their personal experience or knowledge about sexual abuse on respondent's attributions. A total of 241 White college undergraduates at a northeastern university participated in the study. Correlational results indicated that respondents who have prejudicial attitudes tend to report subtle biases against Blacks. In an analysis of variance design, however, no main effects for race were found. There were main effects for gender of victim, with male victims receiving the most negative evaluation. It appears that female respondents tend to be more generous in their appraisals than males, who tend to be more stigmatizing and blaming toward victims of CSA. Furthermore, these evaluations do not seem to be influenced by personal experience or knowledge. Several significant interactions were found indicating that there are serious negative social consequences for victims of CSA, especially male victims who were evaluated by male respondents. The implications of these findings are discussed in terms of the need to dispel myths and misconceptions about CSA especially with regard to sex-role stereotyping. ^