Sexual harassment at school -- more harmful than bullying

Apr 23, 2008

Schools’ current focus on bullying prevention may be masking the serious and underestimated health consequences of sexual harassment, according to James Gruber from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Susan Fineran from the University of Southern Maine in the US. Their research, just published online in Springer’s journal Sex Roles, shows that although less frequent, sexual harassment has a greater negative impact on teenagers’ health than the more common form of victimization, bullying.

Gruber and Fineran’s study, the first of its kind to compare bullying and sexual harassment victimization using equivalent measurements and time frames, looked at the frequency and health implications of both bullying and sexual harassment among 522 middle and high school students. The teenagers completed a questionnaire which asked how often they had experienced each behavior during the school year, who the perpetrators were, and their reaction.

Bullying was more frequent than sexual harassment for both boys and girls - just over half the students (52%) had been bullied and just over a third (35%) were sexually harassed. Almost a third (32%) had been subject to both behaviors. Girls were bullied or harassed as frequently as boys, but gays, lesbians and bisexuals – sexual minorities – were submitted to greater levels of both.

Both behaviors have a negative effect on victims’ health. After taking into account the effects of other stressful life events, ranging from parents’ divorce, moving house, falling in love and getting into trouble with the law, Gruber and Fineran found that sexual harassment causes more harm than bullying in both boys and girls. Girls and sexual minorities, however, appeared to be the most affected by sexual harassment, suffering from lower self-esteem, poorer mental and physical health, and more trauma symptoms (thoughts and feelings arising from stressful experiences) than boys.

In the authors’ view, schools’ current focus on preventing bullying, as well as the tendency to regard sexual harassment as a form of bullying rather than an issue in its own right, draws attention away from a serious health issue. They argue that sexual harassment prevention should receive equal attention as a distinct focus, so that schools can continue to provide a healthy environment for children.

Source: Springer

Explore further: Experts call for higher exam pass marks to close performance gap between international and UK medical graduates

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Flies with brothers make gentler lovers

Jan 22, 2014

Flies living with their brothers cause less harm to females during courting than those living with unrelated flies, say Oxford University scientists.

Recommended for you

Obese British man in court fight for surgery

Jul 11, 2011

A British man weighing 22 stone (139 kilograms, 306 pounds) launched a court appeal Monday against a decision to refuse him state-funded obesity surgery because he is not fat enough.

2008 crisis spurred rise in suicides in Europe

Jul 08, 2011

The financial crisis that began to hit Europe in mid-2008 reversed a steady, years-long fall in suicides among people of working age, according to a letter published on Friday by The Lancet.

New food labels dished up to keep Europe healthy

Jul 06, 2011

A groundbreaking deal on compulsory new food labels Wednesday is set to give Europeans clear information on the nutritional and energy content of products, as well as country of origin.

Overweight men have poorer sperm count

Jul 04, 2011

Overweight or obese men, like their female counterparts, have a lower chance of becoming a parent, according to a comparison of sperm quality presented at a European fertility meeting Monday.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Teachers' scare tactics may lead to lower exam scores

As the school year winds down and final exams loom, teachers may want to avoid reminding students of the bad consequences of failing a test because doing so could lead to lower scores, according to new research published ...