Date of Submission


Document Type



Criminal Justice


Tracy L. Tamborra, Ph.D.


Sexual Coercion, Akers’ Social Learning Theory, Differential Association, Differential Reinforcement, Modeling/Imitation, Definitions


Conditioning, Psychological, Sex Offenses


Differential association theory, Deviant behavior, Sexual assault


Akers’ (2009) social learning theory proposes that individuals learn deviant behavior through the same learning processes by which they learn conventional behavior. Social learning theory has been applied as an explanation for an array of deviant behaviors; however, no known published research has explored the theory’s ability to explain the perpetration of sexual coercion. This project investigated the extent to which Akers’ social learning theory can be applied to sexual coercion. This project utilized a sample of undergraduate students enrolled in various courses at a private four-year institution in the northeast. Descriptive statistics revealed a lack of variability among responses to the sexual coercion inventory. Therefore, the project explored the relationship between differential association and modeling, and definitions. Chi square analyses revealed that individuals who are exposed to prosocial influences regarding sexual assault, such as media relating to the #MeToo movement and family who support the movement, are more likely to hold beliefs which emphasize the necessity of freely given consent and trust media depictions of the prevalence of sexual assault. Findings from the project suggest that social influences can impact the beliefs they develop regarding healthy sexual behavior.