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Feeling Sexual Harassment and Microaggression in Graduate School: The Role of Negative Emotion in Disordered Drinking

Mon, August 13, 2:30 to 4:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 5, Salon D


Research proliferates on undergraduates' encounters with unwanted sexual contact and discrimination, and the effects of these experiences on well-being. However, sociologists have rarely focused on graduate and law students. As record numbers of women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals enter graduate and law school, awareness of risk factors for and the consequences of negative treatment is increasingly important. Graduate and law students are in precarious positions, as they often face simultaneous work/school/family/economic stressors and they are dependent on professors and departments for funding and job opportunities. Although public discourse has shed light on harassment and microaggressions directed toward graduate and law students, research on the topic is sparse, and studies rarely focus on the consequences of these experiences. The current study utilizes general strain theory to demonstrate how sexual harassment and microaggression—experienced as noxious stimuli—produce negative emotion and increase the likelihood of hazardous drinking in a sample of 742 graduate and law students. Findings support general strain theory’s emotion mechanism: anger, frustration, and shame partially explain the effects of strain on hazardous drinking. The current study illustrates the effects of microaggression and sexual harassment on post-undergraduate students and explores gender differences in responses to strain. We also demonstrate the importance of strain and emotion for understanding risky drinking behaviors more generally.