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Popularity & Bullying

March 2, 2011

Kids tend to get more aggressive as they get more popular – up to a point.



Social status and aggression…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

School bullies often seem to hang with the so-called “popular” crowd.  A new study from the University of California at Davis backs this up – to a point.  Sociologists Robert Faris and Diane Felmlee studied over 3,700 eighth through tenth graders, and compared their aggression to their social status.

ROBERT FARIS (University of California, Davis):

What we found was that the kids at the very very top had aggression rates that were significantly lower than the kids just beneath them in the totem pole.


Otherwise, kids got more aggressive as they got more popular, though not the other way around.  Faris suspects that the most popular kids have little to gain from bullying, and might avoid it because it makes them look insecure.  He also notes that while most kids aren’t actually aggressive, the bystanders could do more to stick up for the victims.   I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.