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Psychol Violence. 2012 Jan;2(1):1-15.

Patterns of Sexual Aggression in a Community Sample of Young Men: Risk Factors Associated with Persistence, Desistance, and Initiation Over a One Year Interval.

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  • 1University of Washington, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.



The goal of this study is to distinguish risk factors associated with young men's self-reports of continuing (persistence), stopping (desistance), and starting (initiation) sexual aggression against women over a one year time period. This study fills gaps in the literature not addressed in other studies by examining a wide range of predictor variables prospectively in a community sample.


Single men age 18 to 35 were recruited through telephone sampling in a large metropolitan region. In person audio computer-assisted self interviews were completed at baseline and one year later (n = 423).


By the follow-up interview, half of the participants reported engaging in some type of sexual activity with a woman when they knew she was unwilling. Discriminant function and analysis of variance demonstrated that persistent sexual aggressors had the most extreme scores on many baseline and follow-up measures including childhood victimization, social deviance, personality traits, frequency of misperception of women's sexual intent, and expectancies about alcohol's effects. At follow-up, desisters had fewer sexual partners than did persisters. Also at follow-up, initiators misperceived more women's sexual intentions, had stronger alcohol expectancies, drank more alcohol in sexual situations, and were with women who drank more alcohol as compared to nonperpetrators.


Given the extremely high rates of self-reported sexual aggression, universal prevention programs are needed. Targeted interventions should focus on youth who were victimized in childhood, engage in delinquent behavior, are narcissistic and unconcerned about others, enjoy impersonal sex, drink heavily, and believe that alcohol enhances sexuality.

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