It may not be as frequent as bullying, but sexually harassment at school is more harmful than the common form of victimization, say two researchers.
James Gruber from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Susan Fineran from the University of Southern Maine's study is the first one of its kind that compares bullying and sexual harassment.
As a part of their study, the two researchers used equivalent measurements and time frames to look at the frequency and health implications of both bullying and sexual harassment among 522 middle and high school students.
They found that though bullying was more frequent than sexual harassment for both boys and girls, they concluded that the latter form of victimisation causes more harm.
They also took into account effects of other stressful life events, ranging from parents' divorce, moving house, falling in love and getting into trouble with the law,
Researchers also noted that girls and sexual minorities - gays, lesbians and bisexuals - were more affected by sexual harassment than boys, and that they suffered from lower self-esteem, poorer mental and physical health, and more trauma symptoms.
Gruber and Fineran say that schools, apart from focussing on preventing bullying, also need to turn their attention to this issue.
The study is published online in Springer's journal Sex Roles.