Middle School Bullying May Lead to a Propensity for Sexual Harassment Later

espelage2A study led by Dorothy L. Espelage, a professor of psychology at the University of Florida, followed a large group of children from middle school through high school. The study found a link between bullying and sexual harassment.

Dr. Espelage found that a major ingredient in bullying among middle school students involves homophobic name calling directed at boys who do not fit the masculine stereotype. Dr. Espelage found that victims of such bullying often turn to sexual harassment of girls to demonstrate to their male peers that they are not gay.

The study also found that many teachers and administrators at the middle school level are unaware that sexual harassment takes place in their schools. The authors conclude that “as bullying in middle school – largely driven by the use of homophobic slurs – has been found to be an antecedent to sexual harassment in high school, bullying prevention programs need to address homophobic language and sexual harassment directly.”

Professor Espelage joined the faculty at the University of Florida this past August. Previously, she was the Edward William Gutgsell & Jane Marr Gutgsell Endowed Professor of educational psychology and the Hardie Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, where the research discussed here was conducted. Dr. Espelage is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, where she majored in psychology. She holds a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Radford University in Virginia, and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Indiana University.

The study, Bullying, Sexual, and Dating Violence: Trajectories From Early to Late Adolescence, may be downloaded by clicking here.

Filed Under: Research/StudySexual Assault/Harassment


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