Teen Dating Violence, Sexual Harassment, and Bullying Among Middle School Students: Examining Mediation and Moderated Mediation by Gender
This longitudinal study tested whether sexual harassment perpetration mediates the relationship between bullying perpetration and teen dating violence (TDV) perpetration and tested moderated mediation by assessing whether the developmental pathway varies by gender among middle school-aged youth. Although TDV has been associated with bullying and sexual harassment, the developmental relationship among all three behaviors has rarely been examined, especially by gender. The data were collected from one cohort of seventh grade middle school students (N = 612) from four schools. Students were surveyed every 6 months during seventh and eighth grades for a total of four waves of data collection. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was conducted to address the study aims, consisting of three stages: measurement models, mediation, and moderated mediation (otherwise known as Contrast of Mediated Effects). Results indicate no evidence of mediation. However, in the overall model, bullying and sexual harassment both emerged as significant predictors of TDV at a later time point. Among girls, only bullying significantly predicted TDV at a later time point, and, among boys, only sexual harassment significantly predicted TDV at a later time point. Prevention programs that target bullying and sexual harassment perpetration may reduce later perpetration of TDV. Further research is needed to disentangle the temporal relationships between these aggressive behaviors among youth.