Objective. Little research addresses the correlates of sexual aggression in nonclinical populations of adolescents. The purpose of this study was to identify risk and protective factors associated with sexual violence among male and female adolescents.
Methods. We analyzed data on 71 594 students in the 9th and 12th grades responding to the 1992 Minnesota Student Survey, an anonymous, self-report survey examining an array of risk environments, health-compromising behaviors, and protective factors. The responses of students reporting a history of forcing someone into a sexual act were compared with those who reported that they had never forced someone into a sexual act. Separate analyses were conducted for males and females.
Results. A history of sexual violence perpetration was reported by 4.8% of male and 1.3% of female adolescents. Using a logistic regression model, sexual aggression was associated with experiencing intrafamilial or extrafamilial sexual abuse, witnessing family violence, frequent use of illegal drugs, anabolic steroid use, daily alcohol use, gang membership, high levels of suicide risk behavior, and excessive time spent “hanging out.” Emotional health and connectedness with friends and adults in the community were protective factors for male adolescents against sexually aggressive behavior, and academic achievement was a protective factor for female adolescents.
Conclusions. A history of forcing someone into a sexual act was associated with several risk and protective factors. Efforts to prevent adolescent sexual violence should target individuals at increased risk. Through their psychosocial assessment of young people, health care professionals can play a role in identifying, counseling, and making appropriate referrals for adolescents at risk for sexually aggressive behavior.