A new study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that the most common “violent behavior” exhibited by teenage boys was homophobic teasing.
The survey of 866 boys ages 13 to 19 living in 20 lower-resource neighborhoods in Pennsylvania found that 76.3 percent (or 661 boys) had engaged in homophobic teasing—like calling another boy “homo” or “gay” derogatorily.
Other common violent behaviors exhibited were bullying (73.2 percent), youth violence (67.8 percent), sexual harassment (56 percent), dating abuse (32.6 percent), incapacitated sex (11.2 percent), and non-partner sexual violence (5 percent).
However, researchers found that male high schoolers were less likely to engage in these violence behaviors when they supported gender equality. This did not extend to sexual violence and homophobic teasing, though. Even with an understanding of gender equality, homophobic teasing remained widespread.
“[Homophobic teasing] is so commonplace, they may see it as a form of acceptable, possibly even pro-social, interaction with their peers,” Dr. Alison Culyba, an assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and one of the authors of the study, told CNN.
The problem of violence among boys was exacerbated when the boys saw that their peers engaged in these behaviors: when their peers engaged in at least two abusive behaviors towards women and girls, they were twice as likely to commit rape and five times more likely to bully others.