“Most teen girls still experience sexual harassment and sexism, according to new study”

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Nine of 10 teen girls report experiencing sexual harassment, and majorities also say they have received discouraging comments about their abilities in school and athletics, according to a new study that appears in the May/June issue of the journal Child Development.

The study of 600 girls between the ages of 12 and 18 from California and Georgia was conducted by Campbell Leaper, professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Christia Spears Brown, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky.

“Sexism remains pervasive in the lives of adolescent girls,” said Leaper. “Most girls have experienced all three types of sexism–sexual harassment, sexist comments about their academic abilities, and sexist comments about their athletic abilities.”

Sexual harassment included receiving inappropriate and unwanted romantic attention, hearing demeaning gender-related comments, being teased about their appearance, receiving unwanted physical contact, and being teased, bullied, or threatened with harm by a male. “Our findings on sexual harassment are, sadly, consistent with previous research,” said Leaper. “But on the other hand, most girls said they’d experienced sexual harassment at least once, as opposed to several times.”

Girls also commonly reported having received discouraging comments about their abilities because of their gender. In particular, 76 percent of girls said they had received discouraging comments about their abilities in sports, and 52 percent said they’d received discouraging comments related to their abilities in science, math, or computers–three areas Leaper focused on because of the persistent gender gap in academics. …

The study abstract is as follows:

This study investigated predictors of adolescent girls’ experiences with sexism and feminism. Girls (N = 600; M = 15.1 years, range = 12–18), of varied socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, completed surveys of personal experiences with sexual harassment, academic sexism (regarding science, math, and computer technology), and athletics. Most girls reported sexual harassment (90%), academic sexism (52%), and athletic sexism (76%) at least once, with likelihood increasing with age. Socialization influences and individual factors, however, influenced likelihood of all three forms of sexism. Specifically, learning about feminism and gender-conformity pressures were linked to higher perceptions of sexism. Furthermore, girls’ social gender identity (i.e., perceived gender typicality and gender-role contentedness) and gender-egalitarian attitudes were related to perceived sexism.

The full text of the study is available here.

–Ann Bartow

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