Workplace sexual harassment 'a chronic problem,' says APA president

November 16, 2017

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a pervasive, chronic problem that can cause enduring psychological harm, according to the president of the American Psychological Association.

"Sexual in the workplace is a significant problem," said APA President Antonio E. Puente, PhD. "Psychological research has offered understanding into the causes of , as well as some strategies for preventing or reducing it. However, there is limited research regarding the characteristics of harassers, which makes it difficult to predict who will do it and where and when it might happen. What we do know is that harassers tend to lack a social conscience and engage in manipulative, immature, irresponsible and exploitative behaviors."

Research has shown that is primarily aimed at women, but men are also targets of such behavior. Perpetrators of sexual harassment in the workplace are not only supervisors/superiors but are also coworkers, subordinates, customers and clients, Puente said.

According to the 2017 article "Sexual Harassment: Have We Made Any Progress?" published in APA's Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, women tend to report more adverse effects than men after experiencing workplace sexual harassment. These may include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, post-traumatic stress and a lower level of overall happiness.

Women are more likely to report sexual harassment than men, according to the article, but "studies indicate that men may be at a higher risk of and depression." Men in the military are 10 times more likely to experience sexual harassment than civilian men, but an estimated 81 percent of military men who are harassed do not report it, the articles added.

Organizational climate is a strong predictor of sexual harassment and can include situations where men outnumber women, where supervisors are predominantly male, and where there is a sense among employees that complaints will not be taken seriously. Research has shown that hierarchical power dynamics are at the root of sexual harassment.

"Psychology can help, in the form of sexual harassment training, but it only works if it is part of a comprehensive, committed effort to combat the problem," Puente said. "Most research points to sanctions as the primary way that organizations can be less tolerant of harassment.

"Organizations need to be proactive in establishing policies prohibiting sexual harassment, raising employee awareness, establishing reporting procedures and educating employees about these policies. More research is needed to identify the antecedents to harassment that will help employees and managers identify and respond appropriately."

Explore further: Sexual harassment by colleagues may be associated with more severe depression

More information: "Sexual Harassment: Have We Made Any Progress?" by James Campbell Quick, PhD, University of Texas at Arlington and University of Manchester, and M. Ann McFadyen, PhD, University of Texas at Arlington. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, Vol. 22, No. 3, 2017. www.apa.org/pubs/journals/rele … s/ocp-ocp0000054.pdf

Related Stories

Sexual harassment by colleagues may be associated with more severe depression

September 24, 2017
Employees who experience sexual harassment by supervisors, colleagues or subordinates in the workplace may develop more severe symptoms of depression than employees who experience harassment by clients or customers, according ...

Recommended for you

Suicidal thoughts rapidly reduced with ketamine, finds study

December 14, 2017
Ketamine was significantly more effective than a commonly used sedative in reducing suicidal thoughts in depressed patients, according to researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). They also found that ketamine's ...

Do bullies have more sex?

December 14, 2017
Adolescents who are willing to exploit others for personal gain are more likely to bully and have sex than those who score higher on a measure of honesty and humility. This is according to a study in Springer's journal Evolutionary ...

Children's screen-time guidelines too restrictive, according to new research

December 14, 2017
Digital screen use is a staple of contemporary life for adults and children, whether they are browsing on laptops and smartphones, or watching TV. Paediatricians and scientists have long expressed concerns about the impact ...

Eating together as a family helps children feel better, physically and mentally

December 14, 2017
Children who routinely eat their meals together with their family are more likely to experience long-term physical and mental health benefits, a new Canadian study shows.

The iceberg model of self-harm

December 14, 2017
Researchers have created a model of self-harm that shows high levels of the problem in the community, especially in young girls, and the need for school-based prevention measures.

Anti-stress compound reduces obesity and diabetes

December 13, 2017
For the first time, scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich could prove that a stress protein found in muscle has a diabetes promoting effect. This finding could pave the way to a completely new treatment ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.