The Influence of Demographic and Personality Variables on Judgments about an Ambiguous Sexual Encounter between an Adult and Child


Participants read a vignette that entailed an adult swimming in a pool with an unrelated child without clothing. The vignette indicated that the adult hugged the child once. Manipulated variables were the gender of the adult, gender of the child, age of the child (15 vs. 8 years old), and socioeconomic status of the individuals. Afterwards, participants rated the behavior of the adult on criminality and immorality, and rated the child's own responsibility for the situation. Results were the following: Participants rated male adults as significantly more criminal and immoral for the ambiguous situation than female adults, including rating the child as more responsible for the situation when the adult was a male (female children were believed to be more responsible for the situation than male children). The condition of a male adult's swimming with a female child was rated most criminal and immoral, whereas a female adult swimming with a male child was rated the least criminal and immoral (the ratings for same gender conditions fell in the moderate range). The adult's behavior was rated significantly more criminal and immoral when the child was 8 (as opposed to 15). Women rated the situations consistently as more criminal and immoral than men, irrespective of experimental conditions. Last, participants’ relatively high on the traits of erotophobia and re1igiosity rated the adult's behavior significantly more criminal and immoral than those who were less erotophobic or religious. The results are interpreted in light of the notion of apperception-perceiving events in light of one's own history. attitudes, and beliefs.


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Thesis Completion





Negy, Charles


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program



Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences; Child sexual abuse -- Psychological aspects







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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