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Alternative Title

Gender differences in sexual boundary violation risk

Publication Date


First Advisor

Nnamdi Pole

Document Type

Honors Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Psychotherapist and patient, Psychotherapists-Mental health, Psychotherapists-Sex differences, Psychotherapists-Professional ethics, Psychotherapists-Sexual behavior, Psychotherapy patients-Sexual behavior, Sex crimes-Psychological aspects, Post-traumatic stress disorder, Sexual boundaries, Boundary, Violations, Psychopathology of therapists, Gender and boundary violations, Ethics, Sexual trauma, Psychotherapy, Gender


Boundary violations are a topic of great concern in the ethics of psychotherapy. Prior literature suggests that minor boundary violations can lead to sexual boundary violations. The current study anonymously surveyed therapists (N=220) who reported treating adolescent clients (aged 10-19 years old). We administered demographic questions and several self-report measures such as the Boundary Violation Index (BVI), Social Desirability Scale (SDS), Trauma History Screen (THS), and Trauma Symptom Checklist-40 (TSC-40). We constructed a sexual boundary risk subscale from the larger Boundary Violation Index (BVI) and showed that it had adequate internal consistency. We identified many potential correlations of sexual boundary violation risk focusing on gender, sexual trauma, and psychopathology. A hierarchical regression analysis accounted for social desirability, adult sexual trauma history, age, education/training, adolescent age, psychopathology (depression, dissociation, sexual abuse trauma, and sexual problems), number of adolescents in the caseload, type of practice, and years of experience, but still found that male gender was a significant predictor of elevated sexual boundary violation risk. Among types of psychopathology, sexual problems emerged as the only significant predictor. Limitations of the study include exclusive reliance on self-report measures and the failure to assess sexual orientation. Strengths of the study include the use of well-established measures and the anonymity of the survey. Recommendations are offered for preventing sexual boundary violations through workshops (e.g., gender-sensitivity), personal counseling (especially targeting sexual problems), and supervision.




47 pages. Includes bibliographical references (pages 33-39)