Predicting and understanding sexual and nonsexual adolescent peer victimization in schools: A mixed methods approach
There are several developmental tasks encountered during adolescence that may influence how sexual peer victimization is used and experienced by adolescents in the context of interacting with their peers. The characterization of high-status gender role conforming perpetrators and low-status gender role nonconforming victims in popular media suggests that gender role development and peer social status are important elements involved in how adolescents use and experience sexual peer victimization. In the present research the concept of gender policing (i.e., the use of social power to control and reinforce gender norms) was examined to help describe sexual peer victimization within the peer group context during adolescence. Three studies were conducted to explore (a) the prevalence of sexual and nonsexual forms of peer victimization (i.e., physical, verbal, social, and cyber) in a large sample of high schools students (N = 42, 818; Study 1), (b) social status and gender role conformity in relation to retrospective accounts of sexual and nonsexual forms of peer victimization in high school as reported by emerging adults in a university setting (N = 247; Study 2) who also reported on their current psychological functioning, and (c) in-depth accounts of peer victimization during adolescence obtained through interviews with a small group of adolescents (N = 14; Study 3). The findings reported in this program of research clearly document the presence of both sexual and nonsexual forms of peer victimization in high schools and also suggest that experiencing peer victimization (in general rather than specific forms) may have an impact on later psychosocial functioning. Although there was minimal support for the hypothesized relationships between social status, gender conformity, and experiencing and perpetrating sexual peer victimization, the findings reported in this program of research suggest that there is a level of complexity to sexual peer victimization that requires more refined examination of gender role conformity and social hierarchy alongside the identification of additional mechanisms. Implications and limitations of each study are considered.
adolescence, sexual peer victimization, gender role conformity, social status
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)