Author

Marcus Cherry

Date of Award

2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology and Behavioral Sciences

First Advisor

Melanie Lantz

Abstract

In contemporary society, women regularly endure sexist microaggressions—messages that convey aversive, demeaning sexist slights toward women. Sexist microaggressions have been associated with anger, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, job stress, increased risky health behavior and trauma. Additionally, sexist microaggressions effects are cumulative and can result in the internalization of sexist beliefs and undermine selfcompassion. Research suggests that these distortions of self-views and self-regard can in part contribute to the development of trauma symptoms. Notably, research has found that prolonged exposure to sexism, in general, has been associated with trauma symptoms. However, the traumatic effects of sexist microaggressions have remained largely theoretical. The present study sought to develop an empirically supported model of sexist microaggressions as a traumatic stressor and evaluate the mediating role of internalized misogyny and self-compassion in the development of sexism-based traumatic stress. A sample of 370 cisgender women over the age of 18 was recruited via social media and from undergraduate courses and asked to complete an online survey. The present study found that sexist microaggressions significantly and positively predicted traumatic stress and this relationship was partially mediated by changes in selfregard (i.e., self-compassion) but not changes in self-views (i.e., internalized misogyny). These results support the idea that sexism constitutes a traumatic stressor. Additionally, findings helped clarify stressors accounting for women’s higher reported rates of PTSD and suggest that changes in internalized misogyny and self-compassion are mechanisms iv through which sexist microaggressions act to develop traumatic stress. Further research, clinical, and practical implications are discussed.

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