Experiences of violence among adolescents: gender patterns in types, perpetrators and associated psychological distress

Original Article

Abstract

Purpose

To explore the psychological distress associations of experiences of several types of violence and the victim–perpetrator relationship of physical violence, a gender analysis was applied.

Methods

Data were derived from a cross-sectional questionnaire study among 17-year-old upper secondary school students (N = 1,663). Variables in focus were: self-reported psychological distress, experiences of physical violence, sexual assault, bullying and sexual harassment. Logistic regressions were used to examine associations.

Results

Experiences of physical violence, sexual assault, bullying and sexual harassment were associated with psychological distress in boys and girls. The perpetrators of physical violence were predominately males. Whether the perpetrator was unknown or known to the victim seem to be linked to psychological distress. Victimisation by a boyfriend was strongly related to psychological distress among girls.

Conclusions

Experiences of several types of violence should be highlighted as factors associated with mental health problems in adolescents. The victim–perpetrator relationships of violence are gendered and likely influence the psychological distress association. Gendered hierarchies and norms likely influence the extent to which adolescents experience violence and how they respond to it in terms of psychological distress.

Keywords

Victimisation Young people Mental health Gender differences Public health 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The data collection was supported by the County Administrative Board and the County Council of Västernorrland, Sweden. We thank all participating students and schools.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

References

  1. American Association of University Women (AAUW) (2001) Hostile hallways: bullying, teasing and sexual harassment in school. American Association of University Women, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  2. Ackard DM, Neumark-Sztainer D (2002) Date violence and date rape among adolescents: associations with disordered eating behaviors and psychological health. Child Abuse Negl 26:455–473PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Angold A, Erkanli A, Silberg J, Eaves L, Costello EJ (2002) Depression scale scores in 8–17-year-olds: effects of age and gender. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 43:1052–1063PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Banister EM, Jakubec SL, Stein JA (2003) “Like, what am I supposed to do?”: adolescent girls’ health concerns in their dating relationships. Can J Nurs 35:16–33Google Scholar
  5. Bennett L, Fineran S (1998) Sexual and severe physical violence among high school students. Power beliefs, gender, and relationship. Am J Orthopsychiatry 68:645–652PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Broberg AG, Ekeroth K, Gustafsson PA, Hansson K, Hägglöf B, Ivarsson T, Larsson B (2001) Self-reported competencies and problems among Swedish adolescents: a normative study of the YSR. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 10:186–193PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Connell RW (2002) On hegemonic masculinity and violence: response to Jefferson and Hall. Theor Crime 6:89–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Connell R (2009) Gender in world perspective, 2nd edn. Polity, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  9. Courtenay WH (2000) Constructions of masculinity and their influence on men’s well-being: a theory of gender and health. Soc Sci Med 50:1385–1401PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Craig W, Harel-Fisch Y, Fogel-Grinvald H, Dostaler S, Hetland J, Simons-Morton B, Molcho M, de Mato MG, Overpeck M, Due P, Pickett W (2009) A cross-national profile of bullying and victimization among adolescents in 40 countries. Int J Public Health 54(Suppl 2):216–224PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Darves-Bornoz JM, Choquet M, Ledoux S, Gasquet I, Manfredi R (1998) Gender differences in symptoms of adolescents reporting sexual assault. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 33:111–117PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Edgardh K, Ormstad K (2000) Prevalence and characteristics of sexual abuse in a national sample of Swedish seventeen-year-old boys and girls. Acta Paediatr 89:310–319PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Edwards VJ, Black MC, Dhingra S, McKnight-Eily L, Perry GS (2009) Physical and sexual intimate partner violence and reported serious psychological distress in the 2007 BRFSS. Int J Public Health 54(Suppl 1):37–42PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fredrickson BL, Roberts TA (1997) Objectification theory: toward understanding women’s lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychol Women Q 21:173–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Freeman JG, Samdal O, Klinger DA, Dur W, Griebler R, Currie D, Rasmussen M (2009) The relationship of schools to emotional health and bullying. Int J Public Health 54(Suppl 2):251–259PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gillander Gådin K, Hammarström A (2005) A possible contributor to the higher degree of girls reporting psychological symptoms compared with boys in grade nine? Eur J Public Health 15:380–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gobina I, Zaborskis A, Pudule I, Kalnins I, Villerusa A (2008) Bullying and subjective health among adolescents at schools in Latvia and Lithuania. Int J Public Health 53:272–276PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gruber JE, Fineran S (2008) Comparing the impact of bullying and sexual harassment victimization on the mental and physical health of adolescents. Sex Roles 59:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Haavet OR, Straand J, Saugstad OD, Grunfeld B (2004) Illness and exposure to negative life experiences in adolescence: two sides of the same coin? A study of 15-year-olds in Oslo, Norway. Acta Paediatr 93:405–411PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hagquist CE (2007) Health inequalities among adolescents: the impact of academic orientation and parents’ education. Eur J Public Health 17:21–26PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hand JZ, Sanchez L (2000) Badgering or bantering? Gender differences in experience of, and reactions to, sexual harassment among US high school students. Gend Soc 14:718–746CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hartung CM, Little CS, Allen EK, Page MC (2011) A psychometric comparison of two self-report measures of bullying and victimization: differences by sex and grade. School Mental Health 3:44–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kenway J, Fitzclarence L (1997) Masculinity, Violence and Schooling: challenging “poisonous pedagogies”. Gen Educ 9:117–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kessler RC, Andrews G, Colpe LJ, Hiripi E, Mroczek DK, Normand SL, Walters EE, Zaslavsky AM (2002) Short screening scales to monitor population prevalences and trends in non-specific psychological distress. Psychol Med 32:959–976PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Krug EG, Dahlberg LL, Mercy JA, Zwi A, Lozano R (2002) World report on violence and health. WHO, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  26. Laidler KJ, Hunt G (2001) Accomplishing femininity among the girls in the gang. Br J Criminol 41:656–678CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lawyer SR, Ruggiero KJ, Resnick HS, Kilpatrick DG, Saunders BE (2006) Mental health correlates of the victim-perpetrator relationship among interpersonally victimized adolescents. J Interpers Violence 21:1333–1353PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Leonard KE, Quigley BM, Collins RL (2002) Physical aggression in the lives of young adults: prevalence, location, and severity among college and community samples. J Interpers Violence 17:533–550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Molidor C, Tolman RM (1998) Gender and contextual factors in adolescent dating violence. Violence Against Women 4:180–194PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nansel TR, Craig W, Overpeck MD, Saluja G, Ruan WJ (2004) Cross-national consistency in the relationship between bullying behaviors and psychosocial adjustment. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 158:730–736PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Patel V, Flisher AJ, Hetrick S, McGorry P (2007) Mental health of young people: a global public-health challenge. Lancet 369:1302–1313PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ravens-Sieberer U, Torsheim T, Hetland J, Vollebergh W, Cavallo F, Jericek H, Alikasifoglu M, Valimaa R, Ottova V, Erhart M (2009) Subjective health, symptom load and quality of life of children and adolescents in Europe. Int J Public Health 54(Suppl 2):151–159PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rescorla L, Achenbach TM, Ivanova MY, Dumenci L, Almqvist F, Bilenberg N, Bird H, Broberg A, Dobrean A, Dopfner M, Erol N, Forns M, Hannesdottir H, Kanbayashi Y, Lambert MC, Leung P, Minaei A, Mulatu MS, Novik TS, Oh KJ, Roussos A, Sawyer M, Simsek Z, Steinhausen HC, Weintraub S, Metzke CW, Wolanczyk T, Zilber N, Zukauskiene R, Verhulst F (2007) Epidemiological comparisons of problems and positive qualities reported by adolescents in 24 countries. J Consult Clin Psychol 75:351–358PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ruchkin V, Henrich CC, Jones SM, Vermeiren R, Schwab-Stone M (2007) Violence exposure and psychopathology in urban youth: the mediating role of posttraumatic stress. J Abnorm Child Psychol 35:578–593PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shute R, Owens L, Slee P (2008) Everyday victimization of adolescent girls by boys: sexual harassment, bullying or aggression? Sex Roles 58:477–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Solberg ME, Olweus D (2003) Prevalence estimation of school bullying with the Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire. Aggress Behav 29:239–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stuewig J, McCloskey LA (2005) The relation of child maltreatment to shame and guilt among adolescents: psychological routes to depression and delinquency. Child Maltreat 10:324–336PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sundaram V, Helweg-Larsen K, Laursen B, Bjerregaard P (2004) Physical violence, self rated health, and morbidity: is gender significant for victimisation? J Epidemiol Community Health 58:65–70PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sweeting H, Young R, West P, Der G (2006) Peer victimization and depression in early-mid adolescence: a longitudinal study. Br J Educ Psychol 76:577–594PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Thompson MP, Kingree JB, Desai S (2004) Gender differences in long-term health consequences of physical abuse of children: data from a nationally representative survey. Am J Public Health 94:599–604PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health SciencesMid Sweden UniversitySundsvallSweden

Personalised recommendations