Department of Educational Psychology


Date of this Version



Published in Aggressive Behavior 48 (2022), pp 402–417.



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The purpose of the current study is to prospectively examine the extent to which social norms perceptions regarding commitment to ending sexual violence are associated with subsequent peer victimization and perpetration experiences. Two types of social norms perceptions were examined: 1) peer norms (perceptions of norms among other students in their city), and 2) adult norms (perceptions of norms among adults in their city). Participants were 1259 middle and high school youth from a single school district (three high schools and five middle schools) who completed online surveys at two‐time points, 6 months apart. Adolescents for whom perceptions of peer norms were one standard deviation or more above and below the mean of actual norms were “over‐perceivers” and “under‐perceivers,” respectively. Overperceivers overestimated their peers’ commitment to ending sexual violence, whereas underperceivers underestimated their peers’ commitment to ending sexual violence. Other adolescents were “accurate perceivers”; these adolescents were accurate in their estimation of their peers’ commitment to ending sexual violence. In general, underperceivers (22.2% of the sample) were more likely than accurate perceivers (77.8% of the sample) to subsequently experience peer‐to‐peer perpetration and victimization. Adolescents who perceived adults to have a higher commitment to ending sexual violence were less likely to report subsequent perpetration and victimization for some forms of peer-to‐peer violence. These findings highlight the potential promise of the social norms approaches to prevent peer‐to‐peer violence among youth which aligns with increasing calls in the field to integrate these approaches into comprehensive sexual violence prevention.