Evolutionary perspective on indirect victimization in adolescence: the role of attractiveness, dating and sexual behavior



We studied indirect victimization from an evolutionary perspective by examining links between this type of victimization and several indicators of attractiveness (past sexual behavior, dating frequency and physical appearance). Two thousand three hundred and nineteen (56% female) students (ages 13–18) from a region of southern Ontario, Canada, completed self-report measures of indirect victimization, physical appearance, dating frequency, recent sexual behavior (number of partners in previous month) and past sexual behavior (number of lifetime partners minus number of partners in previous month) as well as indexes of depression, aggression and attachment security, which were used to control for psychosocial maladjustment. Consistent with an evolutionary framework, physical appearance interacted significantly with gender, wherein attractive females were at greater risk for indirect victimization, whereas for males physical attractiveness was a protective factor, reducing risk of victimization. Physical appearance also interacted with grade, being inversely related to indirect victimization for younger adolescents and having a nonsignificant association with victimization for older youth. Finally, recent sexual behavior was associated with increased risk of indirect victimization for older adolescents only, which we discussed with regard to peer perceptions of promiscuity and short-term mating strategies. These findings have important implications for the development of interventions designed to reduce peer victimization, in that victims of indirect aggression may represent a rather broad, heterogeneous group, including attractive individuals with no obvious signs of maladjustment. Aggr. Behav. 34:404–415, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.