Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PhD)


Center for Psychological Studies

First Advisor

Ana I Fins

Second Advisor

Edward R Simco

Third Advisor

Jan Faust


Exercise, Self-esteem, Sexual Assault


Anecdotal evidence suggests that women who exercise regularly increase not only their physical strength but also their mental strength, which has been conceptualized as self-confidence, assertiveness, and self-esteem. Empirical investigation into this area of research, however, is scarce. One study found that self-reported victimization rates of female athletes were significantly lower when compared with another study's female non-athlete sample. More recently, research found significant differences in levels of self-esteem and sexual victimization rates between female collegiate varsity athletes and the general female college population. The current study is a subsequent analysis of the data used in the aforementioned study.

Data were collected from an undergraduate population of females in a mid-sized western university. Subjects were drawn from four varsity athletic teams and from two general classes. Measures of sexual victimization, self-esteem, and exercise habits were administered.

The current study found that frequency of exercise, intensity of exercise, duration of exercise, and self-esteem, were not related to victimization at a statistically significant level. This was true for the sample as a whole, and when varsity athletes and non-varsity athletes were considered separately. Though it did not reach statistical significance, further analysis revealed that varsity athletes were three times less likely to report victimization than non-varsity athletes.

Gender stereotype of exercise was not able to predict victimization scores over and above frequency of exercise, intensity of exercise, duration of exercise, and self-esteem, among non-varsity athletes. The variable of gender stereotype of exercise demonstrated that subjects who reported female-stereotyped exercises were three times more likely than those who participated in gender-neutral exercises, and eight times more likely than those who participated in male-stereotyped exercises, to endorse statements of sexual victimization. These results, however, were not statistically significant.

Though neither research hypothesis was supported, analyses indicated that further investigation into variables that buffer one against sexual victimization relative to self-esteem and choice of exercise habits is merited.

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