Developing Leaders of Character and Preventing Sexual Violence in the U.S. Military: Towards a Model of Respectful Sexuality.
Abstract: Human sexuality contains the potential for pleasure and pain, risks
and benefits, expressions of love and acts of violence. As young people engage with their
developing sexuality, the potential for positive development can co-occur with incidents of
problematic behavior or, worse, incidents of sexual violence. Specific institutional
contexts in which young people develop as adolescen... read morets and transition into adulthood have
the potential to engage in promoting positive sexuality development and in preventing
incidents of sexual violence. The United States Military Academy at West Point is an
example of an institution working to promote high standards of moral and ethical behavior
(e.g., developing cadets into leaders of character who will become Army officers) while
also working to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual violence. A model that accounts
for both the positive potential in adolescent sexuality development and the potential of
sexual violence could guide this institution and others like it in supporting young people
in their personal relationships and, in addition, in developing young people into leaders
who can address these issues with those around them. Accordingly, the present research
sought to provide an empirical foundation for a research agenda that can inform such an
integrated model for promoting positive sexuality development and for preventing sexual
violence within contexts such as universities and the military. I conducted a
constructivist grounded theory analysis of semi-structured interviews with 24 cadets, who
were students at the United States Military Academy training to become Army officers. There
were three male and three female cadets from each of the four years of the USMA program.
The participants discussed their reflections on sexual relationships and on sexual violence
at the Academy. Findings revealed areas of strength and vulnerability in cadets'
discussions of character building, relationship building, and unit building as they spoke
about their values, experiences, and expectations with regard to sex, sexuality, and sexual
violence. I therefore propose a model of respectful sexuality that could address the areas
of vulnerability identified while building upon the strengths of the cadets and the
strengths of their context. Such a model would present a framework that both integrates and
differentiates between promotion and prevention, would involve an educational approach to
teaching values through the implementation of specific sexuality skills, and would call for
a collaborative commitment to addressing sexism. The model of respectful sexuality is
discussed in light of the limitations of this cross-sectional qualitative study and, as
well, in regard to the implications for future study of human sexuality development. In
addition, I note how this research could be applied to policies and practices within
specific educational and professional institutions.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2015.
Submitted to the Dept. of Child Development.
Advisor: Richard Lerner.
Committee: Tama Leventhal, Lacey Hilliard, William Damon, and Deborah Tolman.
Keywords: Developmental psychology, and Gender studies.read less