According to an international study Understanding Masculinites, conducted by research group Promundo, young men with at least secondary-level education are more likely to harass women on the street.

The study looked at the motivation behind street harassment and cat calling and found that older, or less educated men, were less likely to cat call women than their younger, more highly educated counterparts.

The survey results, from 4,830 men from Middle Eastern and North African countries, surprised researchers who had predicted men with higher educations would have a more enlightened attitude towards women.

But the findings showed men with a higher education had stronger feelings of inadequacy and resentment towards the world as they felt it owed them something.

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"Many young men report difficulties finding a job, and as such, they struggle to achieve the socially recognised sense of a man as financial provider," the study explains.

Their behaviour can also be considered a backlash in terms of gender equality movements and a way for them to assert power and dominance over women.

Kathryn McPhillips, executive director of HELP, an Auckland agency that supports victims of sexual violence, told The Wireless that the findings were particularly interesting and disappointing.

"It makes sense that they might act out in some way, but to act out in this way - to try to make women feel smaller - really shows the underlying misogyny that still exists in our culture," she says.

"It would be great if there was further research done in New Zealand. Right now, I personally don't understand what motivates a man to hassle a woman."

Of the men surveyed, 64 per cent admitted having harassed women and girls in public and blamed the women for dressing provocatively.

Over 80 per cent of men claim to have harassed women for fun and excitement.

McPhillips says in her experience alcohol is usually a factor and so is the need to show off in front of friends.

"Many have a delusion that women want to be the subject of cat calling - that they want their body to be the subject of a guy yelling in a passing car - but the situation can change very quickly," she says.

"If a man gives what he thinks is a compliment and a woman doesn't give what he thinks is an acceptable response, it can very quickly switch to abuse."

"There's an inherent threat as well in that if a man can verbally abuse a woman, he may also physically assault a woman. It's a form of power, and that's scary."