Date of Award

8-2005

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Schuyler W. Huck

Committee Members

P. Gary Klukken, Teresa A. Hutchens, Richard A. Saudargas

Abstract

The APA Code of Ethics explicitly prohibits psychology educators and students from engaging in sexual relationships with each other. Such relationships can cause emotional and physical turmoil for the participants involved, the department, the university, and the entire field of psychology. The purpose of the current study was to add to the existing knowledge of sexual contacts and advances between psychology students and educators. In contrast to previous studies, the current study involved a survey of a random sample of current APA Student Affiliates (N = 1053) rather than sampling a population who had already completed their education. A useable response rate of 44% was achieved.

The participants were asked to indicate their involvement in and impact of any sexual contact or advances with their psychology educators. Participants were also asked to indicate any knowledge of such contacts occurring in their department, provide information related to their beliefs about the ethicality of such contacts, and rate the adequacy of their training in addressing sexual misconduct.

Among the significant findings was that almost 8.5% of the respondents indicated they experienced a sexual advance and 2% admitted they engaged in a sexual contact with a psychology educator. As with similar studies, women were more likely than men to be involved in a sexual contact or advance with a psychology educator. Interestingly, those students who engaged in a sexual contact or advance reported having significantly more ethics training than those respondents who did not engage in such behaviors.

Although only a small number of respondents indicated they were personally involved in such behaviors, almost 25% of the respondents reported they had first-hand knowledge of a sexual contact or advance occurring within their department. Alarmingly, 53% of the respondents said they would not feel safe in pursuing any type of action even if they knew of such behaviors occurring. Finally, most respondents felt it was highly inappropriate for psychology educators and students to engage in a sexual contact during a working relationship. However, the percentages dropped significantly when the contacts occurred before or after the working relationship.

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