Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Natalie Shook

Committee Member

Amy Fiske

Committee Member

Elisa Krackow

Committee Member

Julie Hicks Patrick


Victim blaming refers to an attributional tendency in which some level of responsibility for a negative outcome is placed on victims (Maes, 1994). Many victims of crimes face stigmatization in the form of blame from friends, acquaintances, the criminal justice system, media, strangers, and even perpetrators of the crimes themselves (e.g., Cross, Parker, & Sansom, 2019; Gordon & Riger, 1991). Victim characteristics, type of crime, and observer characteristics all influence victim blaming tendencies. However, no studies to date have tested whether these factors in combination elicit differential reactions to victims of crimes. The present research tested how the intersection of gender (man vs. woman) and age (younger vs. older) affect attributional evaluations of victims across a variety of crime vignettes in younger and older adult participants. Study 1 was conducted among a sample of young adult participants to test how manipulations of victim characteristics (man or woman; younger or older) influence attributions about the victims and perpetrators across four crimes (i.e., aggravated assault, sexual assault, pickpocketing, and credit card scam). Study 2 was conducted among a sample of older adults to not only replicate the first study, but also examine how patterns of victim blaming may differ based on participants’ age. Results across the two studies demonstrated that there are stereotypes regarding who is expected to be the mostly likely victim of aggravated assault (i.e., younger man), sexual assault (i.e., younger woman), and a credit card scam (i.e., older woman). Patterns of results revealed that participants did not attribute the most blame to victims who were considered to be the most likely victim of each crime. There was also a general pattern where men, compared to women participants, attributed more blame to victims of pickpocketing. Additionally, older men blamed victims of sexual assault more than older women. There was no support for the defensive attribution hypothesis, as sharing similar identities (i.e., gender and age) with victims did not reduce participants’ victim blaming tendencies. Lastly, victim blaming did not significantly differ based on participant’s age. Overall, both studies provided support for the significant and variable roles of victim characteristics, type of crime, and participant characteristics in contributing to victim blaming tendencies, even after controlling for multiple crime characteristics (e.g., severity of the crime) and individual differences about justice.

Embargo Reason

Publication Pending