Title: Sexual Assault Perpetration Among Adolescent and Adult Males: Ecological Approaches to Conceptualizing the Etiology and Prevention of Rape
Name: Erin Casey
University of Washington, Tacoma
Social Work Program
Year: 2006
Type: Dissertation Fellowship
Summary: This dissertation addresses two previously outlined gaps in sexual violence prevention research; a lack of research examining the predictive role of risk factors for adolescent perpetration among representative samples of males, and a dearth of studies considering contextual and social network factors in supporting or inhibiting sexual aggression. Further, the dissertation considers how to translate these etiological findings into enhanced multi-level prevention intervention designs that hold greater promise for dislodging rape-supportive risk factors and conditions. These issues are taken up in three linked papers.

The first two papers describe the results of secondary analyses of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a nationally representative sample of U.S. adolescents followed for six years into early adulthood. The first analysis examines childhood and adolescent predictors of sexually coercive behavior in early adulthood among males. A path analysis shows that experiencing sexual abuse as a child has both a direct effect on sexual aggression in adulthood, and an indirect effect through sexual aggression in mid-adolescence. Perpetration of sexual assault in adolescence, and involvement in delinquent activities are the only two additional significant predictors of sexually coercive behavior. Overall, survivors of childhood physical and/or sexual abuse accounted for more than half of sexually aggressive adults, suggesting that multiple pathways emerge during childhood and adolescence in relation to future perpetrating behavior.

Findings from the second analysis suggest that peer and social network-related factors can be important and additional contributors to risk for sexual aggression among boys in adolescence. Findings from a path model suggest that having friends who engage in delinquent behavior, perceiving peer pressure to have sex, feeling uncared for by friends, and participating in delinquent conduct are correlated with sexual aggression.

The final paper utilizes evidence for multi-layered contributors to sexually aggressive behavior emerging from both previous research and the analyses described above to argue for a more committed shift to conceptualizing and implementing sexual violence prevention using ecological programming. To support this effort, the paper reviews literature on effective multi-level prevention programs more generally, and offers concrete steps towards moving the sexual violence field towards an ecological prevention approach. Taken together, these chapters constitute an empirical and conceptual rationale for enhancing our commitment to framing sexual violence intervention and prevention in ecological terms.