The University of California at Davis studied 4,000 middle schoolers in North Carolina and found that, to a large degree, bullying can make a kid more popular. But I think we knew that already, didn't we?
While experts often view aggressive behavior as a maladjusted reaction typical of social outcasts, a new University of California, Davis, study finds that it’s actually popular adolescents — but not the most popular ones — who are particularly likely to torment their 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 UC Davis.
The Faris/Felmlee study relies on data from The Context of Adolescent Substance Use survey, a longitudinal survey of adolescents at 19 public schools in three counties in North Carolina that began in the spring of 2002. The Faris/Felmlee study is based on 3,722 eighth-, ninth- and 10th -grade students who participated during the 2004-5 school year.
While the study focuses on a sample of small-town and rural North Carolina students, Faris expects similar results in bigger cities.
“I would be surprised if kids in New York City or L.A. were radically different than kids in North Carolina,” Faris said.
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.”
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