Many people view aggressive behavior as the behavior of social outcasts. But, a new study covered by LiveScience (and many other news sources) found that popular adolescents, except for those at the very top of the social ladder, are the ones who are more likely to bully their peers.
It isn’t aggression that makes kids more popular. But becoming more popular makes kids more aggressive, said study author Bob Faris, a sociologist at the University of California, Davis — suggesting that those kids see tormenting others as a way to gain and cement status.
Robert Faris and his co-author Diane Felmlee used data on 8th, 9th, and 10th graders from 19 public schools in North Carolina. Rather than just looking at the individual traits of bullies, they looked at the social networks in which bullying takes place.
“For the most part, we find that status increases aggression,” Faris told LiveScience….The gradual increase of aggression with popularity continues until you reach the top 2 percent of popular students, Faris said. At that point, aggression suddenly drops off. The top 2 percent are even less aggressive than the kids at the very bottom of the heap, Faris said.
The sociologists also complicated this story by examining gender.
On the whole, kids with many friends of the other gender are 16 percent less aggressive toward their same-gender peers, Faris said. Schools where boys and girls mix and mingle are also less aggressive on the whole. But in schools where mixed-gender friendships are rare, the few kids who do have them tend to be more aggressive, Faris said.
These cross-gender ambassadors (Faris calls them “gender bridges”) are rare, Faris cautioned, so it’s harder to be certain of the results. What may be happening, he said, is that gender bridge kids are proportionately more popular, thanks to their ability to connect the guys to the girls and vice versa.
See LiveScience for the complete story.