Cycle of Victimization: Relational Aggression and Sexual Harassment Among Emerging Adult Women

Ariel D Blum, Fordham University


Relational aggression and sexual harassment are not new phenomena yet more women are opening up about their experiences. In both cases, an individual experiences victimization of unwanted aggressive behaviors. Although relational aggression and sexual harassment share conceptual underpinnings, their relationship is not well understood and has not been established empirically. The current study examines predictors of victimization during college, as well as the cycle of victimization through the high school and college years, as reported by 352 female undergraduates between the ages of 18 and 25. Predictors included retrospective reporting of high school sexual harassment and relational aggression, symptoms of compromised mental health, self-esteem, and college climate related to sexual harassment and relational aggression. Results indicate that prior relational and sexual victimization are significant predictors of current victimization. The presence of symptoms of compromised mental health was a significant moderator between high school relational victimization and college relational victimization. Self-esteem was not a significant moderator. In the realm of school climate, although university policies did not predict fewer cases of victimization, peer victimization was found to be a significant predictor. Those women who reported being victimized by relational aggression or sexual harassment indicated they knew of or had peers who were similarly victimized. Relational victimization and sexual harassment victimization are strongly correlated. Both prior victimization and symptoms of compromised mental health are associated with increased vulnerability for college women. Surveying students about the prevalence of sexual harassment and relational aggression may provide universities with a valuable indicator of campus climate.

Subject Area

Womens studies|Counseling Psychology|Psychology

Recommended Citation

Blum, Ariel D, "Cycle of Victimization: Relational Aggression and Sexual Harassment Among Emerging Adult Women" (2019). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI13878284.