Young people 'angry at sexist peer culture in Wales' researchers say

Primary school children Even at primary school "you just had to go out with someone," one boy said

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Young people in Wales feel angry about "having to live in a sexist peer culture and society", researchers say.

A survey by Cardiff University, the NSPCC and the Children's Commissioner for Wales's office asked 10 to 12 year olds about childhood and sexuality.

The findings will be unveiled at the Senedd.

Professor Emma Renold said: "We want to provide the Welsh government with enough knowledge to tackle the issue of sexualisation in Wales."

The project organisers claim most researchers gather adult perspectives, but say no research has been conducted in Wales on how children feel.

Some of the responses from children include:

  • Maria, 10: "When you look older, people no longer treat you like dirt."
  • Nico, 12: "At (primary) school you just had to go out with someone, it was a virtual rule. If you had a girlfriend you were marked out as cool
  • Aneria, 12: "I hardly go out anymore, I just stay in my PJ's…I am so self-conscious…I don't like to walk past guys".
  • Vicky, 11: "There are some comments boys our age make (about naked women) and you take it seriously…they are so sexist
  • Maisy, 10: "A lot of the boys were ganging up on me 'cos I wouldn't go out with him…I said no..."

Prof Renold, from Cardiff University's School of Social Sciences, said: "The young people we spoke to were often critical and angry about having to live in a sexist peer culture and society and many felt there was nothing that could be done to change it."

The group says it was inspired to conduct research after the formation of a cross-party assembly group to try and tackle sexualisation and equalities.

Prof Renold added: "We want to provide the Welsh government with enough knowledge to tackle the issue of sexualisation in Wales.

"Adults have preconceived ideas of why children are seemingly growing up too fast, but have they got it wrong?

"Adults can often misinterpret why children and young people are dressing a certain way, talking about girlfriends and boyfriends at an early age and being so concerned with looks.

"But their reasons may be very different than simply wanting to 'grow up' too soon.

"When girls talk about wearing high heels - not to look sexy, but to get respect, feel independent and not to be treated like dirt - we need to think again about what it means when children want to 'look older'.

"When boys and girls hook up as boyfriend and girlfriend so they can be 'best friends' or to avoid being socially excluded we need to think again about young 'boyfriends and girlfriends' as children growing up too quickly."

Prof Renold's research involved interviews with 125 children aged 10, 11 and 12.

The NSPCC's Vivian Laing, who supported Cardiff University with the research, said: "What's clear from this research is children in primary school need to be supported with an appropriate sex and relationship education.

"So what we would want to do is work with Welsh government to try and make sure that that's strengthened."

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