Academic journal article International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology

Peer Sexual Harassment in Adolescence: Dimensions of the Sexual Harassment Survey in Boys and girls/Acoso Sexual En Adolescentes: Dimensiones De la Escala De Acoso Sexual En Chicos Y Chicas

Academic journal article International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology

Peer Sexual Harassment in Adolescence: Dimensions of the Sexual Harassment Survey in Boys and girls/Acoso Sexual En Adolescentes: Dimensiones De la Escala De Acoso Sexual En Chicos Y Chicas

Article excerpt

The phenomenon of sexual harassment in adolescence is a research topic that has taken on particular importance in recent decades, most notably since the publication of the study by the American Association of University Women (American Association of University Women, AAUW, 1993). This report painted a picture of high prevalence of sexual harassment among high school students (Hill & Kearl, 2011; Leaper, Brown, & Ayres, 2013; Lichty & Campbell, 2012), attracting the interest of researchers and educators the world over, and has succeeded in having them recognize adolescent peer sexual harassment as an issue that constitutes a public health concern (Bucchianeri, Eisenberg, & Neumark-Sztainer, 2013; Mumford, Okamoto, Taylor, & Stein, 2013) and which interferes in the educational pursuits of both schools and students (Vicario-Molina, Fuertes, & Orgaz, 2010). The available literature on this phenomenon reveals an ever-increasing amount of research (Cortés et al., 2014; Mumford et al., 2013; Ortega & Sánchez, 2011; Ortega, Sánchez, Ortega-Rivera, Nocentini, & Menesini, 2010; Wei & Chen, 2012; Zych & Quevedo-Blasco, 2011) suggesting that a considerable percentage of secondary students have, at some point, been at the receiving end of unwelcome behaviour that could be viewed as peer sexual harassment.

Despite this growing interest in the study of peer sexual harassment, a single definition for this phenomenon has yet to be formally adopted, encompassing gender-related, psychological, legal, sociological, psychoeducational and developmental approaches (Bucchianeri et al., 2013; Conroy, 2013; Espelage, Basile, & Hamburger, 2012; Petersen & Hyde, 2013; Tillyer, Wilcox, & Gialopsos, 2010).

We define peer sexual harassment in adolescence as "an unwanted and unwelcome sexual behaviour because sexual harassment cause distress and discomfort to the victims, which can interfere with the normal life of students in schools. Sexual harassment includes different behaviours, such as name-calling, rumours, sexual comments, looks, gestures, attempts at personal contacts, and physical attacks" (Ortega et al., 2010, p. 248). Starting from a developmental perspective, sexual harassment in adolescence should be understood in terms of factors related to pubertal development, which trigger an awakening of others' sexual interest and desire (Ortega et al., 2010; Shute, Owens, & Slee, 2008). Thus, the increasing interest shown by peers, together with adolescents' lack of skills when it comes to expressing sexual interest, could in itself constitute a risk factor for episodes of sexual harassment among young people (McMaster, Connolly, Pepler, & Craig, 2002; Petersen & Hyde, 2013). Several studies support this view, with pubertal status leading to an increase in both sexual harassment victimization and aggression (Pepler, Craig, Connolly, Yulie, & McMaster, 2006), and the start of dating relationships increasing the risk of sexual harassment from opposite-sex peers (Schnoll, Connolly, Josephson, Pepler, & SimkinsStrong, 2015).

There is an alarming prevalence of this phenomenon among the adolescent population, where prevalence rates range from 20% to 84% (American Association of University Women, AAUW, 2011; Bucchianeri et al., 2013; Charmaraman, Jones, Stein, & Espelage, 2013), with boys showing more involvement than girls in aggression (AAUW, 2011; Attar-Schwartz, 2013) and similar rates in victimization (McMaster et al., 2002; Mumford et al., 2013). However, the disparity in the data lends itself to controversy and highlights the gap in the research regarding the means of measuring this phenomenon, it is that some studies use a single item to measure peer sexual harassment and others use large scales. Theoretical models have been quite influential insofar as considering the phenomenon a one-dimensional (Menesini & Nocentini, 2008; Schnoll et al., 2015), two-dimensional (Ortega et al. …

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