Monday, February 14, 2011

Status Struggles - disputing the "social status" myth of school bullies

American Sociological ReviewImage via WikipediaA new study published in this month's American Sociological Review, Status Struggles: Network Centrality and Gender Segregation in Same- and Cross-Gender Aggression, suggests that students in the middle of the social hierarchies at their schools, rather than the most popular or the most socially outcast, are more likely to be bullies.

Prof. Robert W. Faris, University of California, outlined the motivation to bully - aggression, as simply one route to gaining and / or maintaining social status. And he paralleled this to the more acceptable ways for those in the "middle" to climb the social ladder, e.g.
"This is not the only way that kids climb socially. There are a lot of other ways—much more effective ways: being good in sports, being pretty, being rich, if you’re funny, if you’re nice." [Education Week]
Here's an excerpt from the study's abstract:
We find that aggression is generally not a maladjusted reaction typical of the socially marginal; instead, aggression is intrinsic to status and escalates with increases in peer status until the pinnacle of the social hierarchy is attained. Over time, individuals at the very bottom and those at the very top of a hierarchy become the least aggressive youth.
The study surveyed students at middle and high schools in rural and suburban North Carolina over a number of years (3,722 students from 2002 through 2005), and found that found that regardless of their social backgrounds, race / ethnicity, or grade levels, the patterns of aggressors’ places in the social spectrum were the same.