Direct link between sexual objectification of girls and aggression towards them

There is a direct relation between the sexual objectification of girls and aggression towards them, research by psychologists at the University of Kent has shown.

The study, which looked at youth members of gangs as well as those with no gang affiliation, provides the first evidence of a link between objectification and non-sexual aggression in young people.

Dr Eduardo Vasquez and colleagues at the University's School of Psychology, together with a former student, found that higher levels of objectification were significant predictors of aggression towards girls.

Their findings are consistent with the claim that, among other negative outcomes, the perception of women as nothing but sexual objects also evokes aggression against them.

The research also established that watching television and playing violent video games were positively correlated with both sexual objectification and aggression towards girls.

The study featured 273 participants aged 12 to 16 years old from a secondary school in London. The school is located in an area experiencing problems with gangs and delinquency.

The findings showed that the objectification-aggression link manifests itself at least as early as the teenage years, leading to the suggestion that the detrimental effects of perceiving females as objects begin at an early stage of development.

This, in turn, has the potential to be further reinforced and strengthened over a number of years, suggest the researchers, thereby becoming 'more robust and difficult to change'. The study also suggests that the factors that might allow objectification to influence children – such as violent video games or sexist media – poses a potentially serious risk of increasing anti-social acts towards girls.

The research, entitled The sexual objectification of girls and aggression towards them in gang and non-gang affiliated youth, (Eduardo A. Vasquez, Kolawole Osinnowo, Afroditi Pina, Cheyra Bell – University of Kent; Louisa Ball) is published in the journal Psychology, Crime, and Law. See: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1068316X.2016.1269902

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Notes to editor

Established in 1965, the University of Kent – the UK's European university – now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked: 23rd in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

In the National Student Survey 2016, Kent achieved the fourth highest score for overall student satisfaction, out of all publicly funded, multi-faculty universities.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (http://www.kent.ac.uk/about/partnerships/eastern-arc.html).

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

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