Original Article

Sex Roles

, Volume 68, Issue 5, pp 311-320

First online:

Perceived Sexism, Self-Silencing, and Psychological Distress in College Women

  • Rebecca J. HurstAffiliated withCounseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Duke University Email author 
  • , Denise BeesleyAffiliated withDepartment of Educational Psychology, University of Oklahoma

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The current study aimed to increase knowledge related to the role of a restrictive relational strategy in the well-established link between women’s experiences of sexism and psychological distress. Utilizing self-report data, this study examined whether self-silencing mediated the relationship between perceived sexism and psychological distress in a sample of U.S. college women (n = 143) from a large, Midwestern university. It was hypothesized that recent sexist events, lifetime sexist events, and self-silencing would predict increased psychological distress and that self-silencing would mediate the relationship between perceived sexism and distress. Higher recalled sexist events both within the past year and over a lifetime predicted increased psychological distress and self-silencing, while self-silencing predicted increased distress. Results from hierarchical multivariate regression analyses and bootstrapping supported the mediating role of self-silencing between lifetime sexist events and distress and between recent (i.e., occurring in the past year) sexist events and distress. Findings support that the adoption of a restrictive relational strategy partially explains the negative psychological consequences of perceived sexism for college women.


Sexism Psychological distress Self-silencing Interpersonal Women Relational-cultural theory