Factors related to distorted thinking about women and violence in Secondary School students1

Factores relacionados con las creencias distorsionadas sobre las mujeres y la violencia en estudiantes de Educación Secundaria

DOI: 10.4438/1988-592X-RE-2022-395-517

Esther Rivas-Rivero

Mirian Checa-Romero

Alejandro Viuda-Serrano

Universidad de Alcalá


Gender-based violence (GBV) is an issue facing cultures globally, whose origin lies in gender-differentiated socialisation. The purpose of this study, which is cross-cutting in its approach and ex-post-facto in its design with a sample of 777 adolescents in Castilla-La Mancha, is to discover the difference between boys and girls respecting the distorted beliefs about women and the use of violence, as well as the relationship between distorted thinking and religiosity, political positioning and the consumption of pornography. The results show that boys show greater tolerance towards these beliefs than girls. Moreover, statistically-significant differences were found between those who considered themselves very religious people, who were politically positioned on the political Right and who consumed some pornography; and those who were not very or not at all religious, who were politically situated in the political centre or Left, and who consumed no or almost no pornography, respectively. The structural equation model shows that sexism is directly related to distorted thinking, while its relationship with religiosity and political conservatism is indirect. It underlines the importance of identifying these thoughts among adolescents so as to prevent the acceptance of violence in future couple relationships. The educational arena plays an important role in developing equality in order to build a society free of any kind of discrimination against women, an aspect that must begin in teacher training and include the gender perspective in the classrooms.

Keywords: Distorted thinking, sexism, religiosity, political conservatism, consumption of pornography, adolescents.


La violencia de género (VG) es un problema que afecta a todas las culturas, cuyo origen se encuentra en la socialización diferencial. El presente estudio, de corte transversal y diseño ex-post-facto y con una muestra de 777 adolescentes de Castilla-La Mancha, tiene como objetivo conocer las diferencias entre chicos y chicas respecto a las creencias distorsionadas sobre las mujeres y el uso de la violencia, así como la relación entre estos pensamientos distorsionados con la religiosidad, el posicionamiento político y el consumo de pornografía. Los resultados evidencian que los chicos presentan mayor tolerancia hacia estas creencias que las chicas. Además, las diferencias se encuentran entre quienes se consideraban personas muy religiosas, se posicionaban políticamente en la derecha política y consumían algo de pornografía, respecto a quienes se consideraban poco o nada religiosas, políticamente situadas en el centro o a la izquierda política y consumían nada o casi nada de pornografía, respectivamente. El modelo de ecuaciones estructurales muestra que el sexismo se relaciona de manera directa con los pensamientos distorsionados, mientras que la relación con la religiosidad y con el conservadurismo político es indirecta. Se subraya la importancia de identificar estos pensamientos entre adolescentes con el fin de prevenir la aceptación de la violencia en las futuras relaciones de pareja. El ámbito educativo tiene una importante labor en el desarrollo de la igualdad con el fin de construir una sociedad alejada de cualquier forma de discriminación contra las mujeres, aspecto que ha de iniciarse con la formación del profesorado y la inclusión de la perspectiva de género en las aulas.

Palabras clave: Pensamientos distorsionados, sexismo, religiosidad, conservadurismo político, consumo de pornografía, adolescentes.


Gender-based violence (GBV) is a serious public health problem in most societies and cultures (McCarthy, Mehta & Haberland, 2018). GBV is taken to refer to violence against women because of the sole fact that they are women, hence it has a social and political nature, bearing in mind the unequal power relationships between men and women that have been legitimised according to the patriarchal system (Bonilla-Algovia & Rivas-Rivero, 2020). Specifically in Spain, the Macro-survey of Violence against Women, which was conducted in 2019 by the Government Delegate’s Office for Gender-based Violence, reports that the prevalence of physical violence among women who have had a partner is 11.4% and 8.9% have suffered sexual violence from a current or former partner (Delegación del Gobierno contra la Violencia de Género, 2020). It has been found that the rate of violence during courtships varies between 20% and 80% for psychological abuse (Rubio-Garay, López-González, Saúl & Sánchez-Elvira-Paniagua, 2012). These data reveal that violent behaviours during courtship are not an exception. However, it has been studied to a lesser extent than in the adult population (De la Villa, García, Cuetis & Sirvent, 2017), despite negatively affecting adolescents and it may influence how they become involved in a couple relationship in the future (Rodríguez-Franco & Rodríguez, 2009). It should be added that in the study of this prevalence in adolescents there may be an underestimation considering that there is great difficulty in identifying certain behaviours as abuse (Decker et al., 2015). Moreover, prior studies show that violence, as a means to resolve conflicts, is a common element in courtships (García-Carpintero, Rodríguez-Santero & Porcel-Gálvez, 2018), due to the gender inequalities that have traditionally been transmitted.

The acceptance of distorted beliefs about women and the use of violence have been studied as an important risk factor in maintaining GBV (Bosch & Ferrer, 2012; Fernández-Montalvo & Echeburúa, 1997). These cognitive distortions are erroneous ways to interpret reality. Moreover, they are one of the great obstacles that divert attention away from the problem, since they legitimise violence as an appropriate way to resolve conflicts (Echeburúa, Amor, Sarasua, Zubizarreta & Holgado-Tello, 2016). Some of these beliefs are based on women’s responsibility for these occurrences, shifting abusers’ blame, what is meant by GBV and resistance to this type of abuse. Such distortions are based on the traditional roles that consider women inferior (Lorente, 2007; Torres & López-Zafra, 2010) and question whether abuse is really taking place, minimising its effects, blaming the victims and exonerating the aggressors (Torres, Lemos-Giráldez & Herrero, 2013). Detecting these cognitive biases about women and the use of violence has been very important in intervention with abusive men, mainly, (Echeburúa & Fernández-Montalvo, 2009), although it has also made it possible to set out guidelines for preventing it with adolescents (Fox, Hale & Gadd, 2014). Moreover, the deconstruction of these ideas may seem a starting point for the elimination of gender inequality and the distortions about the roles of men and women in couple relationships.

With respect to tolerance of these cognitive distortions, there is a greater tendency to accept them among men than among women (Bonilla-Algovia & Rivas-Rivero, 2019). The same differences (Decker et al., 2015) and similar explanatory factors (Merino et al., 2021) have been found in the adolescent population, albeit most research into these beliefs has been carried out on the adult and university population (Bonilla-Algovia & Rivas-Rivero, 2019; Echeburúa et al., 2016; Fernández-Montalvo & Echeburúa, 1997). Moreover, to understand how boys and girls construct those irrational ideas, it is necessary to know the acceptance of these concepts in adolescence, given that sex-specific behaviours are acquired in each culture; it is sociocultural factors that influence models of masculinity and femininity (Soler, Barreto & González, 2005) and determine behaviours oriented towards these social prescriptions, such that abusive and coercive behaviours could emerge (Francis & Pearson, 2019).

The construction of these distortions is influenced by the cultural mandates that have granted a series of privileges and rights to men, both beyond and within the couple, and have traditionally legitimated power and domination over women, accepting the use of violence to control them (You & Shin, 2020). The representations of the feminine and masculine identities that are formed through socialisation are symbolic structures that lend meaning to reality and guide men’s and women’s behaviours. These cultural representations of gender are beliefs shared down the generations through interaction with various agents and institutions that model the behaviour (González-Anleo, Cortés & Garcelán, 2018; Spruijt, Dekker, Ziermans & Swaab, 2019). Moreover, discrimination against women originates in collective expectations of what is considered appropriate (Perrin et al., 2019). Therefore, the normalisation of GBV lies in the prescription of discriminatory beliefs, rules and attitudes that tend to make such violence difficult to eliminate (Read-Hamilton & Marsh, 2016).  

Another important predictor of GBV is sexism, by which is meant the set of “attitudes, beliefs and behaviours, as well as the organisations, institutional and cultural practices which either reflect negative assessments of people according to the gender to which they belong or support the existence unequal statuses of women and men” (Swim & Hyers, 2009, p. 407). It is an attitude that endures over time and which has an affective burden that leads to the development of discriminatory behaviours. Thus, the belief becomes established that men and women are essentially different and, therefore, must conform to different social roles and norms (Hellmer, Stenson & Jylhä, 2018). This attitudinal construction is explained under the Theory of Ambivalent Sexism (Glick & Fiske, 1996). In this theory, traditional sexism, called hostile sexism, coexists with another, much more subtle, apparently kinder sexism, but which is just as discriminatory, called benevolent sexism. Both forms of sexism perpetuate inequality and the subordination of women (Montañés, Megías, De Lemus & Moya, 2015). 

Expectations about gender roles are influenced by sociocultural factors (Glick et al., 2000). Specifically, the relationship between religious practice and discriminatory attitudes towards girls and women has been examined, and it has been concluded that, upon comparing monotheistic religions, it is not a question of the specific affiliation, but rather of the degree of religiosity or the strength of a religion that predicts discrimination against women (Hannover, Gubernath, Schultze & Zander, 2018). This relationship may be direct, since the religious authorities may be explicitly teaching stereotypical viewpoints through the values inculcated by religious teaching (Mikolajczak & Pietrzak, 2014). However, religiosity has been related more to benevolent sexism than to hostile sexism (Haggard, Kaelen, Saroglou, Klein & Rowatt, 2019; Hellmer et al., 2018). 

Discriminatory attitudes towards women have also been associated with ideological variables related to political conservatism (Sibley, Wilson & Duckitt, 2007), characterised by the need to preserve and maintain social traditions, that is, to traditional gender roles attributed to women that highlight their delicacy and their need to be protected by men (León & Aizpurúa, 2020), albeit it has been statistically related to the hostile dimension of sexism (Christopher & Mull, 2006).

It should be added that the normalised use of the Internet and social media are key to the transmission of distorted attitudes and the way in which violence against women is exercised in the virtual world (Rebollo-Catalan & Mayor-Buzon, 2020). The link between consumption of pornography and sexist attitudes is relevant, since it is based on viewing women as sexual objects and justifying violence against women (Gallego & Fernández-González, 2019). Exposure to pornography has been associated with violence between adolescent couples since, with the proliferation of the Internet, adolescents can easily access sexually-explicit material (Rostad et al., 2019). It has also been shown that frequent exposure to pornography is related to acts of sexual aggression and violence during courtship in adolescence (Wright, Tokunaga & Kraus, 2016). The content of the scenes represented and the frequency with which it is consumed could contribute to the development of a culture that supports abuse of women, favouring attitudes of tolerance of the use of violence against them (Sun, Bridges, Johnson & Ezzell, 2016). Moreover, some studies refer to the fact that, the greater the use or consumption of pornographic content, the greater the frequency of physical and sexual violence against women (Brem et al., 2020). It is important to state that high rates of adolescents who depend upon pornography for sexual education have been found; this is a group that is liable to be influenced due to their identity being in the process of being construction since their inexperience makes it a critical period (Rothman, Kaczmarsky, Burke, Jansen & Baughman, 2015).

Nevertheless, the abundant scientific evidence shows that, although there has been a great advance in recent years with regards to the equality between women and men, discriminatory attitudes remain in developed societies and among younger groups (Esteban & Fernández, 2017; León & Aizpurúa, 2020). Therefore, carrying out research in the adolescent population is fundamental to prevention, since there is a positive relationship between the acceptance of such beliefs and attitudes and GBV (Ubillos-Landa, Goiburu-Moreno, Puente-Martínez, Pizarro-Ruiz & Echeburúa-Odriozola, 2016). Moreover, adolescence is a crucial step in the development of skills that promote healthy affective links in such relationships (Muñoz-Fernández, Ortega-Rivera, Nocentini, Menesini & Sánchez-Jiménez, 2019). Given the importance of socialisation in the maintenance of distorted ideas and ideas that discriminate against women, it is necessary to intervene through co-education to challenge these highly damaging prescriptions that sustain inequality (Glass et al., 2018; Navarro-Pérez, Carbonell & Oliver, 2019). 

For all these reasons, the purpose of this study was to analyse the distorted beliefs about women and about the use of violence in a sample of adolescents from Castilla-La Mancha. It also seeks to discover the influence of discriminatory attitudes in the acceptance of cognitive distortions, as well as their relationship with religiosity, political positioning and the consumption of pornography as influential factors in such acceptance. Given that these irrational beliefs are a risk factor for GBV, studying what variables may predict these distortions could prevent their assimilation and prevent them from affecting their couple relationships in the future. 



The sample in this research consisted of 777 adolescent in 3rd and 4th year of Secondary School (ESO), of which slightly more than half were women. The average age of the sample is around 14 years. 54.3% were in 3rd year at Secondary School. More than 90% were Spanish nationals. Around 50% lived in settlements with more than 10,000 inhabitants. One in three participants were from the province of Toledo. Around 50% of the people who participated were considered not very or not at all religious, were politically positioned more on the Left and more than 63% did not consume pornography (Table 1). 

TABLE I. Sociodemographic characteristics of the sample. 




M (SD)









14.47 (.891)

























Ciudad Real













< 2,000 



From 2,000 to 9,999 



> 10,000 




2.17 (1.453)




Somewhat religious



Very religious



Political tendency

2.37 (1.345)










Consumption of pornography

1.27 (1.526)




Very low






Measurement instruments

Sociodemographic and contextual characteristics. Ad hoc questions were created for gender, age, place of residence and degree of religiosity, political positioning and consumption of pornography, coded on a six-value Likert scale, from 0 (not at all) to 5 (very/high for religiosity and consumption of pornography), and from 0 (extreme Left) to 5 (extreme Right). 

Inventory of Distorted Thoughts about Women and the Use of Violence - Revised (IPDMUV-R) (Echeburúa et al., 2016). It consists of one factor and a total of 21 items that assess irrational beliefs about women and violence against them. The response of each of these items is dichotomous (Yes/No) and the score ranges between 0 and 21 points, hence, the higher the score, the greater the acceptance of the distorted beliefs. The validation of the scale returned a Cronbach’s Alpha coefficient of .74. In this study, the Cronbach’s Alpha was slightly slower (.705).

Adolescent Sexism Detection (ASD) Scale (Recio, Cuadrado & Ramos, 2007). It consists of 26 items and two factors: 16 items designed to detect the hostile component of sexism (items 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 25, 26) and 10 items concerning the benevolent component of sexism (items 1, 3, 6, 8, 11, 13, 15, 17, 21, 24), on a six-value Likert scale (from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree)). The scale validation found an excellent level of internal consistency (.90). In this study, Cronbach’s Alpha was .927.


The study, which has a quantitative methodology and an ex-post-facto design, was carried out at secondary schools in the Region of Castilla-La Mancha. The university’s Ethics Committee gave its approval to undertake the project (CEI/HU/2019/39).  The research team contacted the centres’ management; they were informed of the study’s purpose. A timetable was set out to be able to administer the instrument in a three-week range (second half of September and first week of October 2019). Informed consent was given to the teachers responsible for the groups, who signed the authorisations to give the questionnaire, in which the anonymity of the participants, as well as the confidentiality of the data, were guaranteed. Filling out the questionnaire took approximately 40 minutes.

Data analysis 

The database was created with the statistical program SPSS (IBM 25.0). Chi-square statistics were used to analyse gender differences in each IPDMUV-R item. The continuous variables were analysed using Student’s t-test for independent samples. The size of the effect between the variables through Cohen’s d statistic; the relationship is small if d ≤ .20, medium if d ≤ .50 and large if d ≥ .80. The acceptance of distorted ideas about women and the use of violence, as measured by percentile scores for religiosity, political positioning and consumption of pornography, were calculated with the one-factor ANOVA test. Post-hoc multiple comparisons were made to contrast the means on the distorted ideas scale. A multiple linear regression analysis was performed to calculate which variables predict cognitive distortions about GBV. Finally, the relationship between sexism, distorted thoughts about women and the use of violence, and sociocultural factors, was analysed using Structural Equation Models (SEM). The program AMOS was used (IBM AMOS 24.0). The overall model fit analysis was performed using the Generalised Least Squares technique. The following indicators were used to determine the goodness of fit: GFI, AGFI, CFI, NFI ≥ .95, RMSEA ≤ .70. 


As Table 2 shows, the acceptance of distorted ideas about women and the use of violence, in a range of 0 to 21, it was lower than 5. On the ASD, the average was 48 points. Finally, very close scores as between hostile and benevolent sexism were obtained.

TABLE II. Descriptive data on the sum of the sexism scale, the hostile and benevolent sexism components and the IPDMUV-R sum. 















ASD Sexism 







Hostile sexism 







Benevolent Sexism 







Table 3 shows the sex differences for each IPDMUV-R item. In general, there was greater acceptance of cognitive distortions among boys than among girls in the sample. Only in item 8 (for many women, abuse by their partners is a sign of concern for them) was there greater percentage acceptance in the women’s group. There were statistically significant differences between boys and girls in biases related to women’s supposed inferiority and traditional gender roles (items 1, 2 and 4). There are also differences in the distortions that blame women for violence (items 10 and 11) and in those that exonerate the aggressor (items 16, 19, 20 and 21); men’s acceptance was nearly 48% and 62% for items 20 and 21, respectively.

TABLE III. Differences in the acceptance of IPDMUV-R according to sex. 





1. Women are inferior to men. 

3.6% (13)

1.1% (4)


2. If the man is the breadwinner, the woman must be subordinate to him. 

3.9% (14)

1.1% (4)


3. The man is the head of the family, so the woman must obey him. 

2.2% (8)

0.8% (3)


4. The woman must have lunch and dinner ready for when the man gets home. 

7.5% (27)

3.6% (13)


5. The woman’s obligation is to have sexual relations with her partner, even if she does not want to at that time. 

2.5% (9)

0.8% (3)


6. A woman should not contradict her partner. 

4.1% (15)

2.8% (10)


7. A woman who continues to live with a violent women must have a serious problem. 

55.5% (196)

53.4% (183)


8. For many women, abuse by their partners is a sign that they are concerned for them. 

20.3% (72)

30.5% (107)


9. When a man hits his partners, she knows why 

8.6% (31)

5.6% (20)


10. If women really wanted to, they could prevent new episodes of violence. 

35.9% (127)

22.6% (79)


11. Many women deliberately provoke their partners so that they will lose control and hit them. 

9.4% (34)

5.6% (20)


12. The fact that most women do not call the police when they are being abused is evidence that they want to protect their partners. 

33.1% (118)

29.4% (104)


13. Schoolteachers are right to use physical punishment against children who are repeatedly obedient and rebellious. 

18.8% (67)

11.0% (39)


14. Children are really not aware that their fathers abuse their mother unless they witness a fight. 

53.9% (192)

49.1% (169)


15. To abuse a woman you have to hate her. 

36.1% (125)

30.9% (107)


16. Most men who attack their partners feel ashamed and guilty about it. 

25.5% (89)

15.2% (53)


17. What happens within a family a matter for the family and the family alone. 

28.5% (102)

23.9% (84)


18. Very few women have physical or psychological sequelae due to abuse. 

15.1% (53)

13.5% (47)


19. Men often abuse their partners because they annoy them. 

18.3% (65)

12.9% (45)


20. Most people who use violence are failures or “losers”. 

47.4% (166)

34.7% (120)


21. People who use violence have serious psychological problems and often do not know what they are doing. 

61.7% (211)

53.9% (186)


Note: *p ≤ .05; **p ≤ .01; ***p≤ .001  

The results also show differences between boys and girls in the scores obtained in the sum of the IPDMUV-R, as well as on the ASFD in the hostile component of sexism (Table 4). A moderate effect size was observed for the ASD (d = .317) and, to a greater extent, for the hostile component (= .435). Differences should be noted between both groups with respect to political positioning and consumption of pornography, with the size of the effect on the consumption of pornography being very high (d = 1.032).

TABLE IV. Difference in averages according to sex with respect to the sum of the IPDMUV-R, the ASD, the hostile and benevolent components and religiosity.








Cohen d

CI 95%








.131 - .414

ASD Sexism







.175 - .458

Hostile sexism







.292 - .577

Benevolent sexism







-.013 - .268








-.257 - .023

Political tendency







.052 - .350

Consumption of pornography







.881 - 1.184

Note: *p ≤ .05; **p ≤ .01; ***p≤ .001

After establishing that differences exist, post-hoc comparisons were made using the Bonferroni method (Table 5). The results confirm that statistically significant differences were found in those who considered themselves very religious, who were on the political Right, and who consumed some pornography.

TABLE V. Post hoc test on the distorted thinking by religiosity, political leanings and consumption of pornography.

Religiosity (I)

Religiosity (J1)

Difference of means (I-J1)

Religiosity (J2)

Difference of means (I-J2)


Not at all






Not at all





Not at all




Political tendency (I)

Political tendency (J1)

Difference of means (I-J1)

Political tendency (J2)

Difference of means (I-J2)

















Consumption of pornography (I)

Consumption of pornography (J1)

Difference of means (I-J1)

Consumption of pornography (J2)

Difference of means (I-J2)


Not at all

Almost none




Almost none

Not at all





Not at all


Almost none


A multiple linear regression analysis was undertaken using the Introduction method to study whether the independent variables sexism (hostile and benevolent), gender, religiosity, political leanings and consumption of pornography predict cognitive distortions as measured by the IPDMUV-R scale (Table 6). According to the results obtained, the hostile (β = .369; p < .05) and benevolent (β = .232; p < .05) components significantly explain the IPDMUV-R score positively, which indicates that the higher the hostile and benevolent sexism score, the higher the scores that are obtained for cognitive distortions. With regards to the coefficient of determination, we obtain a score equal to adjusted R2 = .316. This indicates that both variables (hostile and benevolent) predict 31.6% of the variability of the cognitive distortions variable. The variables sex, religiosity, political conservatism and consumption of pornography do not predict cognitive distortions (p > .05).

TABLE VI. Prediction of the distorted thinking according to the components of sexism, religiosity, political leanings and consumption of pornography.



Standardised B









Hostile sexism







Benevolent sexism





















Political conservatism







Consumption of pornography







Note: B = Unstandardised coefficient; SE = standard error; standardised B = standardised coefficient; t = Student’s T; p = significance; VIF = variance inflation factor.

The model analyses the direct and indirect relationships between five observable variables (Figure 1): the hostile component, the benevolent component, distorted thinking about women and the use of violence (IPDMUV-R), political conservatism and religiosity. The model’s goodness of fit is acceptable: χ2 = 19.872, gl = 5, p-value = .001, GFI = .990, AGFI = .969, NFI = .930, CFI = .946, RMSEA = .62. As can be seen, the structural model explains 25% of distorted thoughts, 3% of political conservatism and 5% of religiosity.

FIGURE I. Proposed structural model

The significance of the relationships between the different variables was studied to analyse the suitability of the model (Table 7). All the weights are significant at the p < .05 level. The components of sexism directly affect distorted thinking (βhostile = .382, p = .000 and βbenevolent = .161, p = .000); the hostile component has a direct effect on political conservatism (β = .160, p = .000) and the benevolent component has a direct impact on religiosity (β = .217, p = .000).

TABLE VII. Standardised regression weights in the model’s relationships.

Causal relationships

Standardised regression weights


Hostile sexism


Benevolent sexism



Hostile sexism





Benevolent sexism





Hostile sexism


Political conservatism



Benevolent Sexism





Discussion and conclusions

Identify the cognitive biases related to gender stereotypes and the justification of violence is essential within primary prevention (Echeburúa et al., 2016). This paper therefore analyses the acceptance of distorted ideas about women and the use of violence among adolescents in Castilla-La Mancha and reports new gender difference data, as well as data on the relationship between these cognitive biases about sexism and other variables such as religiosity, political conservatism and consumption of pornography, given that they could influence the beliefs that sustain inequality and GBV among adolescents.

To begin with, the mean accepted biases among adolescent boys and girls in the sample was 4.50 and the mean score with respect to sexism was 48 points; scores were similar in both components of sexism. As for other characteristics of the participants, more than half of the adolescent boys and girls considered themselves not very or not at all religious, about 46% were on the political Left and more than 63% stated that they had not consumed any pornography. In line with what other studies of adolescents have found (Ubillos-Landa et al., 2017), there are differences between boys and girls; the degree of acceptance of cognitive biases was greater among boys. A greater percentage was only found in the girls’ group with respect to item 8, related to the idea thar abuse could be a sign of concern for them, hence studying these distorted ideas among adolescents is fundamental bearing in mind that there are difficulties in recognising certain behaviours as abuse and not as a demonstration of love (Francis & Pearson, 2019; Rivas-Rivero & Bonilla-Algovia, 2020). Sexism scores by sex were also found to be higher for boys than for girls in the study, in line with other research with adolescents (Montañés et al., 2015; Recio et al., 2007), albeit, although some papers have reported higher levels of benevolent sexism in girls (Recio et al., 2007), in general, the boys in the sample were more likely to agree with both the hostile and the benevolent components of discriminatory attitudes against women.

It should be noted that the results show a moderate effect association between sex and the hostile component of sexism (d = .43). Differences were also found between both groups by political leanings, with boys being more Right-leaning than girls, as was greater exposure to pornographic content, a relationship in which the analyses reveal a high effect size (d = 1.03). These findings are particularly relevant, since this consumption is an important risk factor in the committing GBV (Brem et al., 2020; Sun et al., 2016; Wright et al., 2016) and in the representation of women as sexual objects (Gallego & Fernández-González, 2019), which makes evident the need for intervention, since there appear to be high rates among the adolescents who resort to pornography for sexual education (Rothman et al., 2015). However, the adolescent boys and girls in this study reported that the consumption of pornography was low, although the boys self-reported having consumed it to a greater extent than girls. Lastly, no differences have been found in religiosity according to sex, although the mean was slighter higher in the group of adolescent girls.

Therefore, the data show that there is a greater degree of acceptance among boys in the sample with respect to the traditional gender stereotypes, the use of violence as a normalised way of resolving conflicts in couples and discriminatory attitudes towards women, which may be a reflection of the privileges that have been granted to men in which male domination is legitimised (Rodríguez et al., 2006) through various agents of socialisation (Perrin et al., 2019; Spruijt et al., 2019), making it difficult to eliminate GBV (Read-Hamilton & Marsh, 2016). Research into adolescents is therefore necessary to show evidence of a problem that requires immediate educational intervention (Bonilla-Algovia & Rivas-Rivero, 2019; Muñoz Fernández et al., 2019; Navarro et al., 2019), as well as development of specific training plans for the teaching staff.

Differences between groups when it comes to religiosity, political leanings and consumption of pornography should be added to the list of distorted ideas about women and the use of violence. As the post hoc tests showed, there were differences between those who scored higher on religiosity, political conservatism and who consumed some pornography. These findings are significant, given that there is not an abundance of studies referring to these variables according to distorted ideas about GBV, above all at a developmental stage at which adolescent boys and girls are acquiring competences in developing affective relationships (Muñoz-Fernández et al., 2019) in which it is necessary to identify the influence of the prescriptions that sustain inequality (Bonilla-Algovia & Rivas-Rivero, 2019; Glass et al., 2018; Navarro-Pérez et al., 2019). Even so, it is discriminatory attitudes towards women, in both its hostile and its benevolent components, that predict the distorted ideas about women and the use of violence, as reflected in the results of the regression analysis.

According to the structural equation model, sexism is directly related to distorted thoughts about women and the use of violence (IPDMUV-R); however, its relationship with religiosity and political conservatism is indirect, since, in the model’s fit, religiosity is related to the benevolent component and political conservatism to the hostile component. Consumption of pornography was eliminated from the equation due to the low quality of the fit indices in their interaction with other variables. However, the adolescent boys and girls in the sample show a low percentage of pornography consumption that may have influenced these results. Although evidence has been found about the relationship between religiosity and sexism (Haggard et al., 2019; Hellmer et al., 2018; Mikolajczak & Pietrzak, 2014), political conservatism and sexism (Christopher & Mull, 2006; Sibbley et al., 2007), in this paper they are indirectly related to distorted thinking, hence new approaches are opened in the study of this association.

This paper has some limitations. To begin with, the sample size would have to be increased, since the sample is not representative of adolescents as a whole, although it does provide relevant information to trace other perspectives in research into adolescents. On the other hand, an instrument would have to be included to study social desirability, since the explicit formulation of some statements may cause them to be under-represented. It should be noted that IPDMUV-R refers to heterosexual relationships. In this regards, it should be added that the sexual orientation of the people who took part in the study was unknown; this aspect could be considered in future papers. It would be desirable in future research to expand the sample and include the affective and behavioural dimensions of attitudes, as well as to delve deeper into the variables that analyse religiosity, the consumption of pornography and political positioning using proven instruments, and to include sexual orientation and study this variable with respect to the social cognition analysed. Even so, the paper presents significant information and makes it possible to delve deeper into the cognitive biases among adolescents that legitimise violence, given that the study of these distorted thoughts is relevant both to detecting the acceptability of violence, and in educational intervention (Echeburúa et al., 2016; Fox et al., 2014). The data underline the importance of co-education and of including the gender lens in teacher training in order to prevent and eradicate any type of sexist attitudes (Rivas-Rivero & Bonilla-Algovia, 2020), aimed at achieving the gender equality laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals and at building societies and cultures that have eradicated all forms of violence and discrimination against women. Bearing in mind that GBV is a serious health public health problem (McCarthy et al., 2018), that tolerating it affects all age groups and that the figures for violence during courtship are alarming (Rubio-Garay et al., 2012), it is necessary to continue to contribute to eliminating it through intervention programmes based on equality, deconstructing the distorted ideas about women and the gender roles traditionally transmitted, as well as to detect the risk factors that promote the socialisation of these distorted beliefs that slow development and social progress.


Research funded by the Isabel Muñoz Caravaca Chair at the University of Alcalá and by the Research Programme “Stimulus of Excellence for tenured university professors”, funded by the University of Alcalá and the Region of Madrid, EPU-INV/2020/005.


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Contact address: Esther Rivas Rivero. Universidad de Alcalá. C/ San Cirilo, s/n, 28801, Alcalá de Henares (Madrid) E-mail: esther.rivas@uah.es

1 Research funded by the project “Perception of gender equality between male and female adolescents of Castilla-La Mancha”, conducted by the Isabel Muñoz Caravaca Chair at the University of Alcalá in agreement with the Castilla-La Mancha Institute for Women Affairs and also the Research Programme “Stimulus of Excellence for tenured university professors”, funded by the University of Alcalá and the Region of Madrid, EPU-INV/2020/005.