Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Bernice Lott


The purpose of the present study was to compare intergenerational attitudes and beliefs about sexual assault and sexual harassment. This study evaluated the relationship between level of similarity in attitudes and beliefs between intergenerational dyads and level of family communication (open, average, problem) and gender composition (same vs. different) of intergenerational (parent-student) pairs. It was predicted that: 1) there would be significantly greater differences in the attitudes and beliefs of parent-student dyads in problem communication families than in average and open communication families, and in average communication families than in open communication families, and 2) across all levels of family communication, there would be significantly greater differences in attitudes and beliefs for different gender (mother-son and father-daughter) dyads compared with same gender (mother-daughter and father-son) dyads.

Participants consisted of 320 university undergraduates (198 women and 122 men) and their parents (261 mothers and 229 fathers). Each participant completed the Parent-Adolescent Communication Scale (PACS), Sex Role Stereotyping Scale (SRS), Tolerance for Sexual Harassment Inventory (TSHI), Rape Myth Acceptance Scale (RMA), and read and answered questions about a date rape vignette (ORV). Intergenerational dyads were compared by analyzing their difference scores on the previously mentioned measures in two 2 x 3 MANOVA analyses. Level of family communication did not prove to be a significant factor in determining similarities or differences in attitudes between · parent-student dyads. Gender composition was a significant variable, but not always in the predicted direction. Daughters scored significantly lower in SRS than mothers, while sons scored significantly higher in TSHI and RMA than their mothers. Compared with their fathers, sons scored significantly higher in TSHI, while daughters scored significantly lower in RMA. Additional one-way ANOVA analyses exploring gender differences within each generation indicated that female students scored significantly lower on the SRS, TSHI, and RMA measures than did male students, and mothers scored significantly lower on the SRS, TSHI, and RMA scales than did fathers, which suggests that overall, female students and mothers endorsed fewer sex role stereotypes, were less tolerant of sexual harassment and less accepting of rape finding myths than were their male counterparts. This suggests the importance of gender as a cultural variable over all levels of family communication. The lack of significance of family communication level suggests that with respect to certain beliefs and attitudes, the larger community is a more powerful influence on the individual than is the family.



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