February 29, 2024

Teasing, bullying, and sexual harassment among adolescents.

Abstract: "One hundred forty-seven primary participants and 123 close friends from two public high schools reported on student-to-student teasing, bullying, and sexual harassment. Rates of experience in the past year varied depending on whether students reported on specific unlabeled behaviors taken from the teasing, bullying, and sexual harassment literatures (e.g., name calling, hitting, sexual comments) or teasing, bullying, and sexual harassment explicitly labeled as such. Experience in the past year of at least one specific unlabeled teasing, bullying, and sexual harassment behavior as target and as actor each was reported by over 80% of participants with one exception. Only 29% of respondents reported that they had ever experienced any of the specific unlabeled sexual harassment behaviors as an actor. The percentages of students who reported experience of teasing, bullying, and sexual harassment explicitly labeled as such ranged from 51% for teasing as a target to 5% for sexual harassment as an actor. On average, verbal, nonsexual behaviors were reported most often. Regarding the interrelation of teasing, bullying, and sexual harassment experience, the findings suggest that teasing and bullying form a single construct, while sexual harassment is a separate, but related, construct. Participants' qualitative examples of teasing and bullying varied widely and often overlapped, yet a greater proportion of students' descriptions of teasing were comprised of verbal behaviors and involved humor, and a greater percentage of their descriptions of bullying included physical behaviors. Thus students conceptualize teasing somewhat differently than bullying, but their experience of each appears tightly interwoven. Students' descriptions of sexual harassment were much more uniform than those of teasing and bullying. In their qualitative descriptions and quantitative reports of experience, students primarily equated being sexually harassed with being sexually touched. Students' narrow descriptions of sexual harassment suggest that implementation and enforcement of school policies may shape their understanding of the phenomenon. Furthermore, teasing, bullying, and sexual harassment experience was related to social functioning in the areas of social acceptance, physical appearance, athletic competence, close friendship, and scholastic competence. Being a target of these types of peer victimization was negatively related to social functioning. Given the prevalence of teasing, bullying, and sexual harassment and their links to other areas of social functioning, it is imperative that they be better understood."
Deborah Jean Land
University of Virginia
Dickon N. Reppucci
Department of Psychology
Date Added November 5, 2016
Date Modifed October 17, 2017
Collection UVA scholarship on sexual violence, 1974-

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