A fear appeal approach to web-based sexual offender community notification
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Community notification aims to warn the public when reintegrating sexual offenders represent a significant risk to public safety. However, anxiety and powerlessness are often unintentional side-effects of notification. Fear appeals are persuasive messages that arouse fear of a threat and may include recommended actions for avoiding the threat. This research applied a fear appeal theory, the Extended Parallel Processing Model (EPPM), to community notification web pages. Study 1, a systematic review of existing community notification web pages, informed the development of a “traditional” web page vignette for Study 2. Study 2 compared the traditional web page format to a “high efficacy” web page intervention, which comprised educational information on avoiding sexual victimization. The EPPM predicted positive correlations between fear and perceived threat (hypothesis 1), fear and behavioural intentions (hypothesis 2), and perceived efficacy and intentions to adopt victimization prevention behaviours (hypothesis 4) as well as negative correlations between perceived efficacy and maladaptive fear control responses (hypothesis 3). The intervention group was predicted to have higher perceived threat, higher perceived efficacy, be less likely to adopt fear control responses, and more likely to endorse behavioural intentions than the control group (hypothesis 5). Female participants were hypothesized to have higher fear, perceived threat, fear control responses, and behavioural intentions and lower perceived efficacy than male participants (hypothesis 6). The results provide preliminary support for the EPPM’s ability to explain reactions to receiving a community notification. Hypotheses 1, 2, and 4 were fully supported and hypothesis 6 was partially supported as females displayed higher fear, perceived threat, and behavioural intentions; however, the intervention was ineffective in producing differences between the intervention and control groups (hypothesis 5). Exploratory regression analyses found gender, education level, previous victimization, parental status, and locus of control were related to the EPPM’s variables. Future research should examine the impact of different educational materials and delivery systems (such as interpersonal sources, media, and web-based multi-media) to further examine the application of the EPPM to web-based sexual offender community notification and determine whether it is possible to increase adaptive responses to receiving a community notification by providing educational information.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeMarche, Tammy; Hoffman, Sarah; Olver, Mark
Copyright DateJune 2011