Perpetrator and Victim Gender Patterns for 21 Forms of Youth Victimization in the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence

By Hamby, Sherry; Finkelhor, David et al. | Violence and Victims, December 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Perpetrator and Victim Gender Patterns for 21 Forms of Youth Victimization in the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence


Hamby, Sherry, Finkelhor, David, Turner, Heather, Violence and Victims


Most interest in violence and gender has focused on certain types of victimization such as sex offenses and relational aggression. This study examined gender patterns across numerous forms of youth victimization. The data are from the National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV), a nationally representative U.S. sample of 4,549 children ages 1 month to 17 years obtained through a telephone survey of caregivers and youth. For 18 of 21 victimization types, male perpetration was significantly more common than female perpetration. Perpetrator-victim patterns revealed that most forms of physical assault and bullying showed a predominantly male-on-male pattem. All forms of sexual assault, plus kidnapping, showed a predominantly male-on-female pattem. Nonphysical maltreatment showed a mixed pattem, with fairly similar rates across all four gender configurations. Many violence types were more severe when perpetrated by males versus females as indicated by higher injury rates and greater victim fear. Higher order analyses by victimization type indicated, among other findings, that victimization types with more stranger perpetrators had more male perpetrators, victimizations with higher percentages of male-on-female and female-on-male incidents were more likely to be sexual offenses, and higher percentages of female-on-female incidents were associated with verbal victimizations. Results also suggest that males are more likely to aggress in more impersonal contexts compared to females. Gender socialization, physical power, and social power appear to intersect in ways that create gendered patterns of violence. These factors, versus a focus on skills deficits, need more attention in prevention and intervention.

Keywords: gender differences; youth violence; physical assault; sexual assault; relational aggression

There is keen interest in the gender patterns of violence, particularly concerning whether or when females' participation in violence deserves clinical and policy attention. Most research, however, focuses only on one or two specific forms of violence (e.g., child abuse, sex offending, bullying), which can give a mistaken hnpression regarding broader gender patterns (Chesney-Lind & Irwin, 2007). A more systematic approach to gender patterns across types of violence can advance our understanding (Hamby & Grych, 2013). Furthermore, much research has been on help-seeking, criminal justice, or other unrepresentative samples. Nationally representative data, from the United States or any other country, are lacking for many violence types. We propose that gender differences in violence emerge from multiple factors-a perfect storm of biological and social differences-that combine to produce one of the largest and most problematic gender differences in behavior yet identified. Using concepts of power and gender socialization as an organizing framework, we examine gender patterns for 21 different types of youth vic- timization in a nationally representative U.S. sample. We explore the association of gender with variations in physicality, severity, and impersonality of violence because there are large gender differences in the perpetration of some offenses, such as sexual assault, that are perpetrated primarily by males, and smaller gender differences for others, such as relational aggression and the source of this variation has received ahnost no empirical attention.

GENDER PATTERNS IN THE PERPETRATION OF VIOLENCE

Hyde's (2005) "Gender Similarities Hypothesis'' proposes that women are similar to men on most characteristics. In her review of meta-analyses, violence was one of the very few exceptions to the overall pattern of gender similarities. Hyde found a moderate aver- age effect size for physical aggression, indicating that males perpetrate somewhat more violence than females. The size of the gender difference for physical aggression was sur- passed only by some psychomotor skills, such as throwing distance, that can largely be explained by physiological differences in muscle mass and bone size, and a few-but not all-sexual behaviors. …

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