Strains, Psychological Strains, and Sexual Assault Perpetration: Investigating (Psychologically-informed) General Strain Theory


May 2023

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Although backed up by a plethora of research evidencing its good predictive ability when it comes to crime commission, General Strain Theory (GST) has never really been applied to sex crimes. Although GST traditionally emphasizes ecological strains, previous research has evidenced the saliency of various personality traits in sex offenders, including those related to sex offenders’ psyche and decision-making (e.g., Petruccelli et al., 2017). Furthermore, it has previously been demonstrated that multidisciplinary theoretical integration, through the incorporation of dispositional factors, can be beneficial to GST (Stogner, 2011, 2014). Using cross-sectional data from the ACHA-NCHA for the Fall 2015 through 2018 academic semesters, this dissertation investigates the adequacy of GST for the study of sexual crimes and compares its fitness to that of a revised, psychologically-informed version of GST. Results from this research support GST and echo previous literature in that several strains emerged significantly associated with the odds of sexual assault commission and the latter associations were significantly mediated by anger. Incorporating measures of “psychological strains” (promiscuity, irresponsibility, and sexual sensation-seeking) drastically increased the fitness of the model for sexual assault perpetration, and one strain (i.e., promiscuity) emerged as significantly related to increased odds of sexual assault perpetration. Implications for future research are discussed.



Sociology, Criminology and Penology