Sex Roles

, Volume 48, Issue 5–6, pp 231–244 | Cite as

Sexual Harassment of Adolescents Perpetrated by Teachers and by Peers: An Exploration of the Dynamics of Power, Culture, and Gender in Secondary Schools

  • Greetje TimmermanEmail author


The purpose of this study was to explore and compare the similarities and disparities between sexual harassment of students that is perpetrated by teachers and by peers. The study involved 2,808 randomly selected adolescents at 22 secondary schools from two regions in the Netherlands. The sample comprised 14- and 15-year-old students (55% girls and 45% boys). The majority of the students' parents were born in the Netherlands (86%); 14% were born outside the Netherlands (Morocco, Turkey, and Surinam). The data revealed important differences between peer sexual harassment and sexual harassment perpetrated by teachers. Unwanted sexual behavior by peers is a cultural phenomenon that occurs in public areas. The relatively low incidence of unwanted sexual behavior (18%), however, does not fully reflect the Culture Model. Sexual harassment by teachers is a particularly detrimental experience for adolescents, and health-related problems are therefore reported in higher numbers. Contrary to the assumptions of the Power Model, sexual harassment perpetrated by teachers is not incidental (27%) and does not only occur in secluded places.

sexual harassment adolescents secondary education 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American Association of University Women Educational Foundation. (1993). Hostile hallways: The AAUW survey on sexual harassment in America's schools. Washington, DC:Author.Google Scholar
  2. American Association of University Women Educational Foundation. (2001). Hostile hallways: Bullying, teasing and sexual harassment in school. Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  3. Bajema, C. W., & Timmerman, M. C. (1999). Ongewenst seksueel gedrag in het voortgezet onderwijs; omvang, copinggedrag, klachten en gevolgen. Groningen: Universitair Centrum voor Genderstudies.Google Scholar
  4. Bagley, C., Bolitho, F., & Bertrand, L. (1997). Sexual assault in school, mental health, and suicidal behaviors in adolescent women in Canada. Adolescence, 32, 361-366.Google Scholar
  5. Brandenburg, J. B. (1997). Confronting sexual harassment: What schools and colleges can do. New York:Teachers College, Columbia University.Google Scholar
  6. Bryk, A. S., & Driscoll, M. E. (1988). The school as community: Theoretical foundations, contextual influences, and consequences. Madison, WI National Center on Effective Secondary Schools,University of Wisconsin—Madison.Google Scholar
  7. Bryk, A. S., Lee, V. E., & Holland, P. B.(1993). Catholic schools and the common good. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Corbett, K., Gentry, C. S., & Pearson, W. Jr. (1993). Sexual harassment in high school. Youth & Society. 25, 93-103.Google Scholar
  9. Duncan, N. (1999). Sexual bullying: Gender conflict and pupil culture in secondary schools. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Epstein, D., & Johnson, R. (1998). Schooling sexualities. Philadelphia: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Fitzgerald, L. F., & Hesson-McInnis, M. (1989). The dimensions of sexual harassment: A structural analysis. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 35, 309-326.Google Scholar
  12. Fitzgerald, L. F, Drasgow, F., Hulin, C. L., Gelfand, M. J., & Magley, V. (1997). Antecedents and consequences of sexual harassment in organizations: A test of an integrated model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82, 578-589.Google Scholar
  13. Fineran, S., & Bennett, L. (1998). Teenage peer sexual harassment: Implications for social work practice in education. Social Work, 43, 55-63.Google Scholar
  14. Grauerholz, E. (1996). Sexual harassment in the academy: The case of women professors. In Stockdale, M. (Ed.), Sexual harassment at the workplace (pp. 29-51). Thousand Oaks, CA:Sage.Google Scholar
  15. Hands, J. Z., & Sanchez, L. (2000). Badgering or bantering? Gender differences in experience of, and reactions to, sexual harassment among U.S. high school students. Gender & Society, 14, 718-746.Google Scholar
  16. Hickson, M. L. III, & Stacks, D. W. (1993). Non-verbal communications: studies and applications (3rd ed.). Dubuque, IA: Brown & Benchmark.Google Scholar
  17. Hoefnagels, C. (1998). Kennis over kansen. Determinanten en primaire preventie van sexueel misbruik van kinderen. Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  18. Houston, S., & Hwang, N. (1996). Correlates of the objective and subjective experiences of sexual harassment in high school. Sex Roles, 34, 189-204.Google Scholar
  19. Hughes, J. O., & Sandler, B. R. (1988). Peer harassment: Hassles for women on campus. Washington, DC:Project on the Status and Education of Women, Association of American Colleges.Google Scholar
  20. Ivy, D. K., & Hamlet, S. (1996). College students and sexual dynamics: Two studies of peer sexual harassment. Communication Education, 45, 149-166.Google Scholar
  21. Larkin, J. (1994). Walking through walls: The sexual harassment of high school girls. Gender and Education, 6, 263-280.Google Scholar
  22. Lee, V. E., Croninger, R. G., Linn, E., & Chen, X. (1996). The culture of sexual harassment in secondary schools. American Educational Research Journal, 2, 383-417.Google Scholar
  23. Loredo, C., Reid, A., & Deaux, K. (1995). Judgments and definitions of sexual harassment by high school students. Sex Roles, 32, 29-45.Google Scholar
  24. McKinney, K. (1992). Contrapower sexual harassment: The effects of student sex and type of behavior on faculty perceptions. Sex Roles, 27, 1-17.Google Scholar
  25. Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science. (1999). Mandate Reporting Sexual Harassment and Sexual Abuse in Education. The Hague: Author.Google Scholar
  26. Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. (1993). Working Conditions Act. The Hague: Author.Google Scholar
  27. Murnen, K., & Smolak, L. (2000). The experience of sexual harassment among grade-school students: Early socialization of female subordination? Sex Roles, 43, 2-17.Google Scholar
  28. Nelson, A., & Oliver, P. (1998). Gender and the construction of consent in child–adult sexual contact: Beyond gender neutrality and male monopoly. Gender & Society, 12, 554-577.Google Scholar
  29. O'Sullivan, L., Byers, E. S., & Finkelman, L. (1998). A comparison of male and female college students' experiences of sexual coercion. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 22, 177-195Google Scholar
  30. Prosser, J. (Ed.). (1999). School culture. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  31. Roscoe, B., Goodwin, M. P., Repp, S. E., & Rose, M. (1987). Sexual harassment of university students and student-employees: Findings and implications. College Student Journal, 21, 254-273.Google Scholar
  32. Roscoe, B., Strouse, J. S., Goodwin, M. P. (1994). Sexual harassment: Early adolescents' self-reports of experiences and acceptance. Adolescence, 29, 515-523.Google Scholar
  33. Rosenberg, M. (1986). Conceiving the self. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  34. Shakeshaft, C., & Cohan, A. (1995). Sexual abuse of students by school personnel. Phi Delta Kappan, 76, 513-520.Google Scholar
  35. Stein, N., Marshall, N., & Tropp, L. (1993). Secrets in public: Sexual harassment in our schools. (A report on the results of a Seventeen magazine survey). Wellesley,Wellesley College Center for Research on Women.Google Scholar
  36. Stein, N. (1995). Sexual harassment in school: The public performance of gendered violence. Harvard Educational Review, 65, 145-162.Google Scholar
  37. Timmerman, M. C., & Bajema, C. W. (1996). Retrospectief vooronderzoek naar ongewenst seksueel gedrag in het voortgezet onderwijs (ongepubliceerd onderzoeksrapport). Groningen: Universitair Centrum Genderstudies.Google Scholar
  38. van der Linden, F. J., & Dijkman, T.A. (1989). Jong zijn en volwassen worden in Nederland. Nijmegen: Hoogveld Instituut.Google Scholar
  39. van Wezel, P. M. M., & Maarsingh, E. J. (1993). Psychosociale problemen aangegeven door schoolgaande adolescenten. Apeldoorn: GGD Oost-Veluwe.Google Scholar
  40. Vedder, P., & Veugelers, W. (1999). De pedagogische functie van het onderwijs. Waardenvormend onderwijs in een multiculturele en pluriforme samenleving. Den Haag: NOW'PROO.Google Scholar
  41. Veugelers, W., & de Kat, E. (1998). Opvoeden in het voortgezet onderwijs: leerlingen, ouders en docenten over de pedagogische opdracht en de afstemming tussen gezin en school. Assen: Van Gorcum.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pedagogy and Gender StudiesUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations