Personal ideology and victim-centered attributions in instances of sexual assault: A personological approach

Catherine M Coppolillo, Marquette University


This dissertation examined the role of personal ideology in distinguishing between individuals who are likely to possess a negative stance toward victims of sexual assault and those who are not. An individual's stance toward victims was conceived of as negative attitudes as well as a tendency to hold victims of sexual violence responsible for their assaults. Current thinking with regard to attribution formation proposes a multi-step model that captures the overarching process by which causal attributions are formed (Weiner, 1990), but this model does not account for the individual differences that may moderate movement between those steps. The growing body of research that examines victim-blaming tendencies has identified several variables associated with increased victim-blame, highlighting the role of individual differences in the mechanisms by which causal attributions are formed. These variables include sex, sex-role orientation, political orientation, religious conservatism and worldview. This dissertation proposed that personal ideology, a variable found to be associated with value-laden dimensions of personality such as religiosity, political orientation and worldview, will also be associated with individual differences in stance toward victims of sexual assault. The role of sex and sex-role orientation was also examined. This dissertation employed a two-step design that made use of both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Measured used to operationalize individuals' stance toward victims include the Perceived Causes of Rape Scale (Cowan & Quinton, 1997) and the Attitudes toward Rape Victims Scale (Ward, 1988). Personal ideology was operationalized using Stone and Schaffner's (1988) Modified Polarity Scale, and sex-role orientation was assessed using the Women's Rights and Roles Questionnaire (Coppolillo, 2003). Results of analysis via 2x2 ANOVA demonstrated that those high in the normative dimension of personal ideology tend to be more blaming of victims of sexual assault and also hold more negative attitudes toward victims than do those who are less normatively-oriented. Qualitative analysis of small group discussions on the causes of sexual assault mirrored this finding. Implications for outreach and education efforts to prevent sexual assault and improve response to victims are discussed. Coppolillo, C. M. (2003). The Women's Rights and Roles Questionnaire: Validity and Reliability of a Scale Designed to Measure Attitudes toward Women . Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI. Cowan, G., & Quinton, W. J. (1997). Cognitive style and attitudinal correlates of the Perceived Causes of Rape (PCR) Scale. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21 , 227-245. Stone, W., & Schaffner, P. (1988). The Psychology of Politics . New York: Springer-Verlag. Ward, C. A. (1988). The Attitudes toward Rape Victims Scale. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 12 , 127-146. Weiner, B. (1990). Searching for the roots of applied attribution theory. In S. Graham & V. S. Folkes (Eds.), Attribution theory: Applications to achievement, mental health and interpersonal conflict (pp. 1-12). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Recommended Citation

Coppolillo, Catherine M, "Personal ideology and victim-centered attributions in instances of sexual assault: A personological approach" (2006). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3244559.