Adolescents who feel boys and girls deserve equal opportunities and respect may be less likely to engage in violent behaviours, a study says.
The researchers, including those from the University of Pittsburgh in the US, surveyed 866 boys between 13-19 age group, at after-school programs, libraries, churches, and other youth-serving organizations in 20 lower-resource neighbourhoods in Pittsburgh, US.
As part of a larger study evaluating the effect of a prevention program aimed to reduce sexual violence, the teens completed surveys anonymously between August 2015 and June 2017.
The findings of the current study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, revealed that teenage boys with peers who abused women and girls are much more likely to bully others and abuse their dates, compared to those who didn't witness such behaviours.
Among 620 boys who had ever dated in the lot, the study said a third of them reported indulging in abusive behaviour towards someone they were dating in the previous nine months.
Sexual harassment- whether dating or not- was also common with about 56 per cent of the participants saying they had engaged in such behaviour.
And 587 or 68 per cent of the respondents had indulged in physical fights, or threatened or injured someone with a weapon, the study noted.
Boys reported that they had witnessed their peers engaging in two or more harmful behaviours toward the female gender- such as making rude or disrespectful comments about their body, and hence they had two to five times higher odds of engaging in a variety of violent acts, the researchers said.
They added that some of these behaviours had nothing to do with women or dating.
"This reinforces that pressure to conform to stereotypes about masculinity that perpetuate harmful behaviours toward women and girls is also associated with getting in a fight with another guy. These behaviours aren't happening in silos- if we're going to stop one, we need to also be addressing the other," said study co-author Elizabeth Miller from the University of Pittsburgh.
However, the study said the teens who reported having more gender-equitable attitudes were not any less likely to engage in homophobic teasing, something three-quarters of the survey respondents endorsed.
"It's a puzzling and troubling finding. We believe it may be because these teens have normalized homophobic teasing. It is so commonplace, they may see it as a form of acceptable, possibly even pro-social, interaction with their peers," said Alison Culyba study co-author from the University of Pittsburgh.
"This study illustrates the need for cross-cutting prevention strategies that address multiple aspects of youth violence," Culyba added.