As parents become more aware of the internet, more attention has been brought to the topic of cyber-bullying and bullying in general. What was once seen as a right of passage for children is now condemned as a practice that can take a brutal psychological and physical toll on those bullied.
The stereotype of bullying generally portrays larger or more popular kids as the aggressors, but new research is showing that this may not be the case at all.
A new study published in the journal American Sociological Review has now shown that even popular kids can be targets for bullies. In fact, researchers found that the risk of bullying could rise along with popularity and lead to worse consequences for those bullying victims.
“Most people probably would not think that having a higher social status would increase the risk of being targeted, but with few exceptions, that’s what we find,” said Robert Faris, lead author of the study and an associate professor of sociology at the University of California-Davis. “It’s kind of a hidden pattern of victimization that is rooted in the competition for social status.”
Faris and his colleagues poured over data from the Context of Adolescent Substance Use survey, looking more than 4,200 middle school and high school children in 19 North Carolina schools. Using survey data the researchers estimated each teen’s popularity through determining each school’s network of friendships. Bullies and victims of bullying were identified by asking the teens to identify classmates who picked on others or were themselves picked on.
The study found that children in the 95th percentile of popularity at their schools were 25% more likely to be bullied than their peers in the 50th percentile. However, the study also found that students who reach the peak of popularity are largely immune from bullying.
“So, while the climb to the top of the social ladder can be painful, the very top rung offers a safe perch above the fray,” said Faris.
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