Most, least popular kids less likely to bully, study says
A new study suggests that neither the most popular students nor the least are likely to be bullies at school but rather the kids who are in the middle of the social hierarchies.
According to the analysis, students at the bottom of the status hierarchy don’t have as much capacity for aggression, while those are the top don’t have “much cause to use it” as a means of social climbing.
“Aggression is intrinsic to status and escalates with increases in peer status until the pinnacle of the social hierarchy is attained,” it says. “Over time, individuals at the very bottom and those at the very top of a hierarchy become the least aggressive youth.”
The study was conducted by Robert W. Faris, an assistant sociology professor at the University of California at Davis, and published in the February edition of the American Sociological Review, a publication of the American Sociological Association.
Faris surveyed middle and high school students in North Carolina for several years. He noted that there are exceptions to this construct: very popular kids who are aggressive to peers of the same gender apparently for the sake of being aggressive, or for “providing entertainment at others’ expense.”
Faris found differences between girls and boys; girls are less often physically aggressive and more frequently indirectly aggressive, and they are less likely to bully boys than boys are to bully girls.
“However, most of these differences are modest, and overall rates of aggression are equivalent by gender,” the report says.
*Youths from single-parent households are no more aggressive than others.
*Students whose parents have low levels of education are significantly less aggressive.
*While Latino students are more aggressive toward their same-gender classmates, there are no differences between whites, African Americans and other minority students.
*Grade in school matters only for physical aggression.
*Academic achievement and sports participation have little effect on aggression, with the latter modestly increasing overall and verbal aggression.
*Pubertal development, generally thought to increase aggression, has no effect.
The results, Faris said, have implications for bullying prevention efforts. Anti-bullying programs at schools should pay attention to more subtle and insidious forms of harassment, and appreciate how aggressive behaviors are rooted in status.
“Interventions may have a better chance of success if bystanders scorn aggression instead of being impressed or entertained by it,” the report says.
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| February 8, 2011; 11:11 AM ET
Categories: Bullying, Research | Tags: anti-bullying programs, bulliers, bullying, bullying research, bullying victims, who bullies
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