An Investigation Of Risk-Appraisal And Risk-Taking Behavior Among Women Involved In Prostitution

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Counseling Psychology


Purpose. The purpose of this study was to determine whether women involved in prostitution exhibited differences in risk-appraisal and risk-taking behavior, as compared to criminal non-prostitute women and non-offender working women. Differences between groups on the variables of anxiety, sensation seeking behavior, and fear were also investigated, as were the relationships between variables.Procedures. The sixty subjects for this study consisted of "streetwalkers", women incarcerated for crimes other than prostitution, and non-offender working women. Each group was comprised of twenty women who were matched on the variables of age, race, and educational level. Subjects were administered self-report inventories which assessed risk-taking behavior and risk-appraisal. The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory-Trait Scale, the Sensation Seeking Scale-Form V, and the Fear Survey Schedule-II were subsequently administered. Correlation coefficients were calculated as measures of the relationship between variables, while t-tests were utilized to assess differences between groups.Findings. The hypotheses that prostitutes would exhibit significantly greater risk-taking behavior, as well as lower appraisal of risk, compared to non-offender working women were not supported. Prostitutes did not significantly differ from working women in their reported fear response to specific stimulti, tendency to engage in sensation seeking behavior, or level of anxiety. No significant differences were found between prostitutes and criminal non-prostitutes on the variables under investigation. Significant negative correlations were found between fear and risk-taking, and between risk-appraisal and risk-taking behavior.Conclusions. The results indicate that on several written self-report tasks, prostitutes respond in a manner similar to other women. The high risk behavior of the prostitute cannot be explained by deficiencies in her ability to appraise risk. If, in fact, prostitutes are psychologically and behaviorally different from non-offender working women, means other than standard self-report measures should be utilized to assess such differences. The analysis of the relationship between the variables of fear, risk-appraisal, and risk-taking behavior is essential in the planning of therapeutic interventions with women involved in prostitution.


Psychology, Social

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