This research considered physical attractiveness as a potentially victimogenic individual characteristic. Based on target congruence, the theoretical model predicts direct effects of physical attractiveness on violent victimization and, based on routine activities theory, indirect effects on both violent and non-violent victimization.
Using data from the 2013 wave of the Finnish Youth Victimization Survey (n = 5095) we estimated a structural equation model to examine the hypothesized associations. Physical attractiveness was measured using a novel self-report instrument asking respondents to report how other people react to their physical appearance.
We found consistent support for the theoretically expected pathways. The direct and indirect associations of physical attractiveness on sexual victimization were particularly strong. For example, highly attractive boys were five times more likely than other boys to have experienced child sexual abuse.
Scholars and practitioners should consider physical attractiveness as an individual characteristic that may substantially increase the risk of interpersonal victimization, both directly and through its impact on routine activities. More research is needed to understand the mechanisms producing the observed associations.