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Aug 20, 2015

Heather Littleton talks to PWQ Editor Jan Yoder about her article, co-authored with Amie E. Grills-Taquechel, Katherine S. Buck, Lindsey Rosman, and Julia C. Dodd, 'Health Risk Behavior and Sexual Assault Among Ethnically Diverse Women' which was published in the March 2013 issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly.



Sexual assault is associated with a number of health risk behaviors in women. It has been hypothesized that these risk behaviors, such as hazardous drinking, may represent women’s attempts to cope with psychological distress, such as symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, extant research has failed to evaluate these relationships among ethnic minority samples or identify the mechanisms responsible for this association. The current study examined sexual assault history and two health risk behaviors (hazardous drinking and engaging in sexual behavior to regulate negative affect) in a diverse sample of 1,620 college women. Depression and anxiety were examined as mediators of the relationship between sexual assault and health risk behaviors. There was evidence of moderated mediation, such that for European American women, but not for ethnic minority women, both forms of psychological distress were significant mediators of the sexual assault/hazardous drinking relationship. In contrast, among all ethnic groups, the relationship between sexual assault and both forms of psychological distress was mediated by the use of sexual behavior as an affect regulation strategy. Results support a need to evaluate the assault experiences of ethnically diverse women, as well as the impact of the assault on their postassault experiences including health risk behaviors and psychological adjustment. Additionally, results suggest that practitioners should carefully assess health risk behaviors among victims of sexual assault and be aware that there may be differences in the risk factors and motives for these behaviors among women of various ethnic backgrounds.

Read the full article here.