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Peer Sexual Harassment in the Transition from Childhood to Adolescence

Publicerad:8 maj
Uppdaterad:28 maj

Andrea Valik har undersökt sexuella trakasserier mellan elever i mellanstadiet.


Andrea Valik


Associate Professor Kristina Holmqvist Gattario, Göteborgs universitet Professor Therése Skoog, Göteborgs universitet Professor Carolina Lunde, Göteborgs universitet


Professor Dorothy Espelage, University of North Carolina

Disputerat vid

Göteborgs universitet



Abstract in English

Peer sexual harassment is common among adolescents at school and is associated with adverse psychological outcomes for those involved. Despite this, research on peer sexual harassment in the transition from childhood to adolescence is lacking. The overarching aim of this doctoral thesis was to address peer sexual harassment in the developmentally sensitive period of the transition between childhood and adolescence. The included studies were conducted within the three-year longitudinal PRISE project, with data collected annually in Grades 4 (T1) to 6 (T3) from one cohort of students via questionnaires. In Study I (N = 1007) the aim was to evaluate a new scale, the Peer Sexual Harassment Scale-Child (PSH-C), designed to capture peer sexual harassment in the transition between childhood and adolescence in the school context. Results showed that the PSH-C displayed good psychometric properties, and revealed a two-dimensional structure of the scale in both ten-year-old boys and girls: one dimension reflecting direct verbal sexual aggression and the other reflecting general sexual harassment. Compared to previous research on older adolescents, the results suggest that the peer sexual harassment construct may be structured differently in early adolescence, and gender differences may be less profound. In Study II (N = 997), the lack of knowledge of peer sexual harassment in the transition between childhood and adolescence was addressed by using the PSH-C to examine associations between victimization, perpetration, or witnessing and emotional problems, and how these associations were moderated by gender and class occurrence of peer sexual harassment among ten-year-olds. Results showed that 45% of the participants reported victimization through, 17% perpetration of, and 60% witnessing sexual harassment, with vast overlaps between roles. Sexual harassment victimization and witnessing were related to more emotional problems compared to those not involved. Among those who were victimized, girls reported more emotional problems than boys; while among those who perpetrated, girls reported fewer emotional problems than boys. Both the prevalence of sexual harassment and associations between sexual harassment and emotional problems varied across classrooms, emphasizing the need to take into account contextual factors. Study III aimed to longitudinally examine between-individual, within-individual, and within-school-class variability of the association between peer sexual harassment victimization and emotional problems across early adolescence (ages 10-12 years), also testing the moderating effect of gender (T1 N = 997, T2 N = 966, T3 N = 879). Results showed that victimization was related to more emotional problems across time among both girls and boys, but victimized girls reported more emotional problems than victimized boys. The association between victimization and emotional problems became weaker over time, but not for every individual or in every school class. Instead, adolescents reporting more initial emotional problems reported more emotional problems when victimized over time; and in school classes with lower initial levels of adolescent emotional problems, adolescents reported more emotional problems when victimized over time. Together, the studies contribute to a nuanced understanding of peer sexual harassment during the critical transition from childhood to adolescence, highlighting both developmental and contextual factors.

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