Peer sexual harassment and its impact on perceived stress, self concept and attitude toward school

Michele E Cannata, Pace University

Abstract

Peer sexual harassment is a phenomenon amongst school age children that recently has been given much attention. The research that is available for review is typically qualitative in nature with a minimal number of studies investigating outcome or moderating variables. This study conceptualized peer sexual harassment as a daily stressor for high school students and utilized a stress and coping framework to examine outcome and moderating variables. ^ The participants in this study were 9th–12 th grade high school students from a suburban area in New Jersey. The students ranged in age from 14–18 years old. The mean age of the students was 16 years old. The sample was ethnically diverse with 59% identifying as Caucasian, 8% African American, 15% Hispanic and 28% other. Males comprised 39% of the students surveyed and females were 61%. ^ Sexual harassment, the predictor variable, was defined as unwanted and unwelcome sexual behaviors, which interferes with your life. This was measured by the Sexual Experiences Questionnaire-High School Version (Collingsworth, 2001) that identified 20 sexually harassing behaviors that ranged from least intrusive, non physical behaviors, to those most physically intrusive. Three types of peer sexual harassment were measured, gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion. The first research questions asked the frequency of peer to peer sexual harassment, which types occurred most frequently and are there gender differences in frequency of experiencing peer sexual harassment. A large percentage (95%) of students were found to experience some form of peer sexual harassment. Gender harassment was the most frequent type and females experienced peer sexual harassment more frequently than males. The main hypothesis stated that frequency of peer sexual harassment will predict levels of perceived stress, self concept and attitudes toward school. This hypothesis was not supported for perceived stress and self concept. It was supported for attitudes toward school. ^ The second hypothesis stated that social support, neuroticism and gender would function as moderating variables. Social support was found to predict the outcome variables as a main effect, not as a moderating variable. Neuroticism was found to predict the outcome variables as a main effect, not as a moderating variable. Gender did not produce main effects or moderating effects. ^ This research was effective in applying quantitative measures to a difficult construct to measure. It also was effective in highlighting areas of prevention and program development needed for schools. (Abstract shortened by UMI.) ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social

Recommended Citation

Michele E Cannata, "Peer sexual harassment and its impact on perceived stress, self concept and attitude toward school" (January 1, 2004). ETD Collection for Pace University. Paper AAI3129990.
http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/dissertations/AAI3129990

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