Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment [saj] pp791-sebu-461979 April 10, 2003 17:38 Style ﬁle version Nov 28th, 2002
Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 15, No. 3, July 2003 (
Adolescents’ Perceptions of the Seriousness
of Sexual Aggression: Inﬂuence of Gender,
Traditional Attitudes, and Self-Reported Experience
N. Zoe Hilton,
Grant T. Harris,
and Marnie E. Rice
Little is known about adolescents’ perceptions of interpersonal aggression and the
role of traditional social attitudes in these perceptions. Sixteen-year-old students
(N = 212) of both sexes rated the seriousness of 9 aurally presented scenarios de-
picting either sexual or nonsexual, physical aggression. Sex of perpetrator and sex
of victim were manipulated partly factorially. Students also reported on their own
experiences (as perpetrators and victims) of the aggression portrayed, and com-
pleted a measure of traditional sex role ideology. Sexual aggression was rated as
more serious than nonsexual physical aggression, especially when involving phys-
ical force. Girls gave higher seriousness ratings than did boys. Male-to-female
aggression was rated as most serious, and male-to-male aggression, least serious.
Self-reported perpetrators tended to give lower ratings of seriousness than did
victims. Traditional sex-role attitudes were associated with lower rated serious-
ness but not with reported perpetration or victimization. Multivariate analyses
suggested that the effects of traditional sex-role attitudes could largely be sub-
sumed by the effects of other study variables, especially participant sex. The role
of attitudes as a direct cause of interpersonal aggression is discussed along with
implications for intervention.
KEY WORDS: adolescents; attitudes; sex-role; sexual aggression.
Up to 22% of men in college or community samples report committing acts
of sexual aggression (Calhoun, Bernat, Clum, & Frame, 1997; Koss, Gidycz, &
Wisniewski, 1987; Koss & Oros, 1982; Krah´e, Reimer, Scheinberger-Olwig, &
Fritsche, 1999). Furthermore, 11–19% of adolescent boys admit to inﬂicting
Research Department, Mental Health Centre, Penetanguishene, Ontario, Canada.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Research Department, Mental Health Centre, 500
Church Street, Penetanguishene, Ontario, Canada, L9M 1G3; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2003 Plenum Publishing Corporation