The purpose of this study was to investigate elementary school children's interpretation of sexual harassment incidents and the relationship of those interpretations to self-esteem and body esteem. Eleven scenarios were read to 73 third- to fifth-grade children. Eight scenarios exemplified peer harassment. The children were asked how they thought the victim felt, what the victim should do, why the perpetrator did this, and whether something similar had ever happened to them. They also completed gender role, self-esteem, and body esteem scales. Results indicated that the majority of the children had experienced peer harassment and that the boys and girls had experienced about equal amounts. However, total harassment was negatively related to self-esteem in girls, but not boys. Furthermore, the children's interpretations of the scenarios as well as the relationship of these interpretations to body and self-esteem indicated that the meaning of sexual harassment was different for the boys and girls. Girls were more likely to think the victim would be frightened and boys more likely to think that the victim would be flattered by the attention. Girls who reported that the victim would be frightened or that they did not know how the victim would react reported lower body esteem. These data are interpreted within the framework of sexual terrorism and sexual objectification theories. These data also underscore the need for additional research in sexual harassment among young children.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 16, 2004
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