The prevalence of peer sexual harassment during childhood in Australia

Gabrielle R. Hunt*, Daryl J Higgins, Megan L. Willis, Ben Mathews, David Lawrence, Franziska Meinck, Rosana Pacella, Hannah J. Thomas, James G. Scott, Holly E. Erskine, Eva Malacova, Divna M. Haslam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Sexual harassment inflicted by adolescents on their peers is a major public health issue, but its prevalence across childhood is not known. We provide the first nationally representative data on the prevalence of peer sexual harassment across childhood, using cross-sectional data from the Australian Child Maltreatment Study (ACMS). The ACMS surveyed 8,503 people aged 16 and over about their experiences of child maltreatment and associated health outcomes. The prevalence of peer sexual harassment was assessed using the Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire (JVQ)-R2 Adapted Version (ACMS), with survey data weighted to reflect characteristics of the Australian population. Overall, 1 in 10 (10.4% (95% Confidence Intervals (CI) [9.7, 11.3])) Australians experienced peer sexual harassment during childhood. Peer sexual harassment is an issue disproportionately affecting gender-diverse individuals (24.0%, 95% CI [15.5, 35.2]) and women (15.3%, 95% CI [14.0, 16.7%]), compared to men (5.0%, 95% CI [4.3, 5.9]). Rates of peer sexual harassment were also very high among sexuality diverse participants (prevalence estimates ranging between 14.2% and 29.8%). Peer sexual harassment was predominately inflicted by male peers (9.6%, 95% CI [8.9, 10.4]), compared to 1.8% (95% CI [1.5, 2.2]) reporting harassment from female peers. These findings have implications for understanding and reducing attitudes supporting peer sexual harassment in childhood, particularly against girls and gender and sexuality diverse youth, and associations with other gendered violence both in childhood and later life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Early online date9 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Apr 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • sexual harassment
  • children
  • adolescents
  • gender
  • diversity
  • intersectionality


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