New research published Friday found teenage boys with more gender-equitable views are about half as likely to engage in violent behavior than their peers with traditional views.
The study, which was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and was funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the first to ask teenage boys about violence and attitudes toward gender in “U.S. urban, community-based settings,” rather than schools or clinics, according to its researchers.
The study is comprised of data from an anonymous survey given to 866 male-identifying teens between the ages of 13 and 19 from 20 low-income neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, Penn., between 2015 and 2017, reports ABC News. Respondents were asked how likely they were to agree with statements such as, “A guy never needs to hit another guy to get respect” or “I would be friends with a guy who is gay.”
The research also shows boys who witnessed peers engaging in two or more verbally, physically or sexually abusive behaviors are two to five times more likely to engage in a variety of violent behaviors, such as telling jokes that disrespected women and girls or making disrespectful comments about a girl’s body. Some of the behaviors did not involve women or dating.
Notably, the study did not find teens who reported having more gender-equitable attitudes were any less likely to engage in homophobic teasing. Three-quarters of respondents said they had participated in homophobic teasing.
“You would anticipate that the more progressive your beliefs, the less likely you would be to engage in homophobic teasing,” said Dr. Elizabeth Miller, lead author of the study and chief of adolescent and young adult medicine at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Children’s Hospital. “We did not find that.”
Miller hypothesizes homophobic comments might be so common among adolescents in the study that they did not recognize them as abusive or harmful behavior.
Also notable is that respondents who believed boys and girls deserved equal opportunities and respect were also less likely to report violent behavior, according to UPI.
“The #MeToo Movement brought to light how pervasive sexual violence and derogatory behavior toward women is in our society,” said Miller. “Our findings highlight the wide-ranging impact that witnessing sexual harassment and dating violence has on our teenage boys, and present an opportunity to teach adolescents to challenge negative gender and social norms, and interrupt their peer’s disrespectful and harmful behaviors.”
The research also found the following:
- Of the 619 boys who said they had dated, approximately one in three reported using abusive behavior toward their dates in the previous nine months
- 56% of participants said they’d engaged in sexual harassment
- 68% said they’d been in physical fights, or threatened or injured someone with a weapon
Although previous studies have found a connection between strict views on gender and masculinity and intimate partner violence, the new study aims to focus on “gender equity as a mechanism to use for violence prevention across the board,” according to Miller. “We have for too long siloed sexual and partner violence in one place, youth violence and bullying in another.”
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