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Posted at 11:11 AM ET, 02/ 8/2011

Most, least popular kids less likely to bully, study says

By Valerie Strauss

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.

Other findings:

*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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By Valerie Strauss  | 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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Comments

Kids that intervene usually have more impact than anything. When it is no longer popular or acceptable it stops.

Posted by: jbeeler | February 8, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Myth 1: Bullies Come From Violent Lower Class Families, Myth 2: Children Are Victims Of Bullying Because Schools Fail To Protect Them, Myth 3: Males Fight, Females Tease

FREE E book: http://profilingyourlife.com 3 MYTHS ABOUT BULLYING

Posted by: lcollins1 | February 8, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I think that bullying has to do with the environment that thinks it is "normal" to harass and bully other people. My son's friend is being bullied at his school because his hair is long and because he is smart. I feel that the school has an environment that takes this sort of thing lightly. I feel some districts hire bullies to be teachers and principals and then sort of reward the bullying behavior mistakenly believing it is strength. It is not strength, it is a pathological waste of time and drives good people out. In the case of students, they know what they can get away with and what is accepted. Bullying is wrong and abnormal behavior.

Posted by: ubblybubbly | February 8, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Most, least popular kids less likely to bully, study says
By Valerie Strauss

“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.”
..................
Valerie Strauss is missing a major point based on her headline for this article.

One reaches the top of popularity by past aggression. Reaching the top then makes it no longer necessary to be aggressive.

Those who at the top may no longer be aggressive but they have achieved being at the top by being aggressive. If they suddenly are no longer at the top it would be probable that they once again resumed bullying to reclaim the top.

It is not that the top are less likely to bully as those who are at the bottom and do not bully, but rather that in being at the top there is no longer need to continue bullying.

"If an adolescent at the top of the social hierarchy were to act aggressively towards his or her peers, such action could signal insecurity or weakness rather than cement the student's position," said Faris. "And, it's possible that, at the highest level, they may receive more benefits from being pro-social and kind."

Valerie Strauss should have not used the term "most popular" since the study refers to those who have reached the top. The perception of "most popular" is not those at the top but those who are in popular group. It is not that the top do not bully but rather than the top no longer find any need to bully. If they suddenly are no longer at the top it would be probable that they once again resumed bullying to reclaim the top.

The "most popular" could be seen as a group of 10 students. Based on this study only the top student of the group would not be viewed as aggressive, while the remaining 9 students would be aggressive.

"The study, co-authored by UC Davis sociology professor Diane Felmlee, is published in the February issue of the American Sociological Review. It also finds that those students in the top 2 percent of the school social hierarchy--along with those at the bottom--are the least aggressive."

Every one is using "popular" in context of this study when the study does not use popular.

Take a school where you have school gangs.

One would not speak about "popular".

If one had a school where the hierarchy of popularity was not based upon aggression this study would not be relevant.

This study is not about "popularity" at school but about aggression at schools.

Years ago I went to a high school dominated by gangs and individuals that probably would spend most of their lives in prison for violent offenses. No one considered these students as popular.

There is too much accepted aggression in schools and confusing this with popularity simply indicates there are serious problems in our schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 8, 2011 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Every one is using "popular" in context of this study when the study does not use popular. Posted by: bsallamack
..........................
I was mistaken and see that the study at: http://www.asanet.org/press/Press_Release_Popular_Kids_More_Likely_to_Torment_Peers.cfm,
does use the term popular.
The title of this study is:
Study: Popular Kids—But Not the Most Popular—More Likely to Torment Peers

“Our findings underscore the argument that—for the most part—attaining and maintaining a high social status likely involves some level of antagonistic behavior,” said Robert Faris, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California-Davis.

So to be at the top one had to participate in antagonistic behavior.

“Our findings underscore the argument that—for the most part—attaining and maintaining a high social status likely involves some level of antagonistic behavior,” said Robert Faris, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California-Davis.

"The study,... also finds that those students in the top 2% of the school social hierarchy—along with those at the bottom—are the least aggressive."

“The fact that they both have reduced levels of aggression is true, but it can be attributed to quite different things,” Faris said. “The ones at the bottom don’t have the social power or as much capacity to be aggressive whereas the ones at the top have all that power, but don’t need to use it.”

"...the authors define aggression as behavior directed toward harming or causing pain to another. It can be physical (e.g., hitting, shoving, or kicking), verbal (e.g., name-calling or threats), or indirect (e.g., spreading rumors or ostracism)."

If this study is to be taken as correct and as a true picture of the concept of popularity at American public schools then we apparently now have schools where students are hoping to obtain popularity by being aggressive and vicious.

It is interesting that the authors of the study make no recommendation regarding students that are aggressive or vicious. Instead they pretend that the problems will be resolved by the victims.

"As for policy implications of the study, Faris said interventions targeted specifically at aggressive kids or victims miss the point. “I would start by focusing on the kids who are not involved and work on encouraging them to be less passive or approving of these sorts of antagonistic relationships,” he said. “It’s through these kids who are not involved that the aggressive kids get their power.”

We live in a strange world where we will not protect students from other aggressive and vicious students and expect the victims to deal with the problem.

I guess based upon the authors those parents with non aggressive and vicious children should tell them to respond by being aggressive or vicious to attacks by students that are aggressive or vicious. Some how I do not see this as an answer of the problem.

Posted by: bsallamack | February 8, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

So, the whole premise of GLEE is a lie?

Posted by: richardguy1 | February 9, 2011 3:29 AM | Report abuse

Another idiotic, academic study that is totally predictable. Unfortunately as long as research is prioritized over classroom instruction, this nonsense will continue, in a state school, at taxpayers expense.

Posted by: nvlheum | February 9, 2011 5:10 AM | Report abuse

Bully parents make bully kids - religious differences make it worse.

Posted by: areyousaying | February 9, 2011 7:34 AM | Report abuse

What is overlooked in most of these discussions is that a lot of bullying is actually illegal behavior that adults would go to the police if subjected to. If one of your co-workers punched you in the stomach every morning, or demanded the money you were planning to buy lunch with, you would file charges against him, seek a restraining order, or at the very least look for another job. Students do not have this option on their own, and too many parents leave it up to the school. I guarantee one seventh-grader led out of the school in handcuffs for hitting a classmate or extorting money from him would stop more bullying than any social programs. (Agreed, you don't want to arrest a first-grader, and I don't know exactly where the cut-off should be. But I do know that when thefts were occurring in the school my mother taught at, her room alone was exempt. She had, while warning the students to watch their belongings, added that if anything of hers was stolen she would call the police before notifying the principal.)

Posted by: sideswiththekids | February 10, 2011 8:56 AM | Report abuse

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