Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Psychology

First Advisor

Alan M. Gross

Second Advisor

Elicia C. Lair

Third Advisor

Laura Dixon

Relational Format



Sexually aggressive behavior is well-documented among college students. However, little is known about the role technology may play in facilitating this behavior. Given that social norms have been established as a useful framework for understanding problematic and risky behavior in college students, the current authors sought to determine whether this theory might also provide insight into the use of technology to facilitate sexually aggressive behavior. Thus, this work sought to determine whether sexually aggressive behavior which occurs through the use of technology and social media, henceforth known as sexual cyberbullying, mediated the relationship between perceived social norms of sexually aggressive behavior and face to face sexual aggression and coercion. Moreover, given the role of alcohol use in other problematic behaviors in this population, we examined whether alcohol use moderated the aforementioned relationship. Additionally, the present study sought to determine whether engagement in sexual cyberbullying as either a victim or a perpetrator was associated with negative psychosocial outcomes including depression, anxiety, stress, loneliness, and face-to-face sexual victimization. Participants were college students (N=641) at a midsized university in the south-eastern United States. Participants were recruited via the online system, SONA, as well as through flyers, campus wide list-serve emails, and bulletin boards. Participants who selected to complete the study via SONA were redirected via a link to Qualtrics; those who were recruited in other ways were provided with a link directly to Qualtrics. Following informed consent, participants completed the following measures in order: perceived social norms of sexually aggressive strategies (SSS- Social Norms), sexual strategies scale for personal behavior (SSS- Self), Alcohol use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), the Cyberbullying Experiences Scale (CES), Sexual Experiences Scale (SES), the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21), the UCLA Loneliness scale (UCLAL-8), and the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability scale. Thirty percent of participants reported engaging in some form of sexually aggressive behavior offline and only 15.6% endorsed engaging in sexual cyberbullying. However, 100% of participants endorsed the belief that their peers were engaging in some form of sexually aggressive behavior. Slightly less than half of participants reported being a victim of sexual cyberbullying (40.7%), and being a victim of sexual cyberbullying significantly predicted being a victim of face to face sexual aggression (R^2= .210, F(15,25)=3.995, p<.001). Individuals who were victims of sexual cyberbullying were significantly different from non-victims in their reports of depression, anxiety, stress, and loneliness (F(15,16)=1.779, p<.01, ?_p^2=.044), with victims having higher scores than non-victims across measures of these symptoms (all p’s < .05). Similarly individuals who reported being perpetrators of sexual cyberbullying were significantly different than non-perpetrators on measures of anxiety and stress ((F(10,11)=1.999, p<.05, , ?_p^2=.033), with perpetrators reporting higher scores on measures of these symptoms. Conditional process modelling revealed a significant indirect effect of perceived social norms of sexually aggressive behavior on face-to-face sexual aggression via sexual cyberbullying (b=.0015, p<.001, 95% CI [.0030, .0110]), indicating mediation. However, alcohol use did not demonstrate a moderating effect on this relationship. Additional findings and implications are discussed.



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