Sex Roles

, Volume 75, Issue 7–8, pp 339–348 | Cite as

Physical Appearance and Sexual Activity Mediate the Link Between Early Puberty and Sexual Harassment Victimization in Male Adolescents

  • Therése Skoog
  • Sevgi Bayram Özdemir
Original Article


Contrary to common belief, research shows that male adolescents are frequent targets of sexual harassment. According to some prior studies, early puberty puts male adolescents at a particular risk for being sexually harassed. In this cross-sectional study, we tested two competing explanations of the link between male pubertal timing and sexual harassment in early adolescence. The explanations were based on evolutionary and feminist theories. The sample included 704 seventh-grade Swedish male adolescents (M age  = 13.37, SD = .59). We found that looking more mature and being sexually active significantly mediated the link between pubertal timing and sexual harassment. The magnitude of the indirect effects did not differ significantly from each other. These findings largely replicate prior research for female adolescents, and they suggest that early pubertal timing is linked to victimizing sexual phenomena in early adolescence through young men’s normative sexually mature appearance and sexual activities. Tolerance and respect for differences should be central components of interventions aimed at reducing sexual harassment among young people of any gender.


Sexual harassment Puberty Sexuality Victimization Human males 



We would like to thank Mons Bendixen for encouragement to do the study and Håkan Stattin for kind permission to use data from the seven school project.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

This work was conducted as part of the authors University positions. The research involved Human Participants and the Regional Ethics Review Board approved the study procedures. All participants were informed about and consented to take part in the study as described in the methods section of the paper. The authors report no conflict of interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Developmental Research, School of Law, Psychology and Social WorkÖrebro UniversityÖrebroSweden
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyNorwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway

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