An Empirical Test of the Role of Power Differential in Originating Sexual Harassment

Azy Barak, Yael Pitterman, Rivi Yitzhaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study tested the common argument made by several theoretical explanatory models of sexual harassment that the power differential between men and women at work or in educational settings plays a major role in producing this social phenomenon. We compared incident rates of sexual harassment using two samples (n = 60 in each) of working women in Israel. One sample consisted of urban women, who were generally exposed to Western-style society and workplace atmosphere. The second sample was composed of kibbutz women, who have been living and working in a more egalitarian society. The two groups were matched on variables of field of employment, age, education level, and marital status. Results revealed that the anonymous reports of overall incident rates of sexual harassment, as well as its specific types, were almost identical for the two groups. Other findings (e.g., reaction to sexual harassment incident) were similar as well. These findings were analyzed and discussed in light of different sexual harassment, theoretical models outlined, especially with regard to refutation of predictions made by the organizational, feminist, and parts of the sociocultural models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-517
Number of pages21
JournalBasic and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 1995
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Work on this article was supported by a grant from The Canada-Israel Foundation for Academic Exchanges.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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