Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology


Counseling Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, vii, 78 pages) : illustrations

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Alex L. Pieterse

Committee Members

Jessica L. Martin, Lisa M. McAndrew


Counseling, Gender, Mental Health, Objectification, Sexism, Women, Sex discrimination, Self-perception in women, Eating disorders

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Counseling Psychology | Women's Studies


It has been well established in the literature that discrimination is related to negative mental health outcomes. Consistent with this research, studies have found women’s exposure to sexist discrimination is associated with a host of mental health problems. Moreover, research on women’s exposure to a specific form of sexism called sexual objectification suggests links with specific psychological outcomes related to poor body image and eating problems. Based on a theoretical framework informed by system justification theory, this study attempted to unify and extend research on perceived sexism and objectification theory by investigating benevolent sexism and self-objectification as potential mediators of the relationship between sexism and mental health symptoms. Participants were 274 predominantly European American women of diverse sexual orientations and ages ranging from 18 to 80. Results indicated that greater frequency of sexism predicted greater symptoms of depression and anxiety. When controlling for all other major variables, including age and BMI, experiences of sexism uniquely accounted for 10.4% of the variance in symptoms of depression and anxiety. Although support was not found for benevolent sexism as a mediator, a significant negative association was observed between sexism and women’s benevolent sexist attitudes. Support was found for self-objectification as a significant partial mediator of the link between sexism and mental health symptoms. The direction of the significant associations observed between sexism and self-objectification and between self-objectification mental health symptoms were opposite those found in prior studies. Possible explanations for these findings are discussed, such as the use of a composite variable to measure individual sexism, and characteristics of the study sample which suggest the presence of additional mediators and moderators of the relationships observed among study variables.