Sexual harassment in middle and high school children and effects on physical and mental health

Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2015 May;54(5):430-8. doi: 10.1177/0009922814553430. Epub 2014 Oct 9.


Sexual harassment can be physical interaction and touching, as well as, psychological, environmental, or via Internet and text messaging. An online survey in an urban clinic asked children, aged 12 to 18 years the following: demographic data, height and weight, chronic medical conditions, healthcare use, questions concerning sexual harassment-witnessed and exposure, and finally questions from the Pediatric Symptom Checklist (PSC-35). Overall, 124 of 210 (59%) of the 12- to 18-year-olds surveyed had experienced sexual harassment, with the predominance being female 69% (80/116) versus 48% (49/92) male. Participants who had experienced sexual harassment were significantly more likely to score positive for psychological impairment than those who had not experienced sexual harassment (chi-square test P < .001; odds ratio: 4.7 (95% confidence interval, 1.9-11.8). There was a borderline significant association between elevated body mass index and having experienced sexual harassment (2-sample t test P = .08). Sexual harassment has a direct correlation to psychological impairment in adolescents, especially females.

Keywords: adolescent; mental health; sexual harassment.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sexual Harassment / psychology*
  • Sexual Harassment / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Behavior
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Text Messaging
  • Urban Population
  • Virginia / epidemiology