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Most teen bullying occurs among peers climbing the social ladder: Highest rates of bullying occur between friends and friends-of-friends

Teens who bully, harass, or in any other case victimize their peers aren’t at all times lashing out in response to psychological issues or unhealthy dwelling environments, however are sometimes utilizing aggression strategically to climb their faculty’s social hierarchy, a University of California, Davis, examine suggests. These findings level to the the explanation why most anti-bullying applications do not work and counsel potential methods for the future.

“To the extent that this is true, we should expect them to target not vulnerable wallflowers, but their own friends, and friends-of-friends, who are more likely to be their rivals for higher rungs on the social ladder,” stated Robert Faris, a UC Davis researcher on bullying and creator of the paper “With Friends Like These: Aggression From Amity and Equivalence.” The paper was printed not too long ago in the American Journal of Sociology. Co-authors are sociologists Diane Felmlee at Pennsylvania State University and Cassie McMillan at Northeastern University.

Faris, a professor of sociology, stated friends and associates with shut ties to at least one one other seemingly compete for positions inside the identical golf equipment, school rooms, sports activities and courting subgroups, which heightens the threat of battle and aggression. This paper is the first recognized to point out that these rivals are sometimes their very own friends.

This differs from some widespread theories and definitions of bullying, during which the conduct stems from an imbalance of energy and is principally directed at youths in the decrease social strata at school or group environments who probably have bodily, social or psychological vulnerabilities.

The examine focuses, as a substitute, on a broader definition of peer aggression — theorizing that aggression can really enhance the social standing of the aggressor.

Using a big, longitudinal social community examine of greater than 3,000 eighth, ninth and tenth graders in North Carolina over the course of a single faculty 12 months, the authors discovered that teenagers who have been friends in the fall have been greater than thrice as prone to bully or victimize one another in the spring of that very same faculty 12 months. This shouldn’t be merely animosity between former friends who drifted aside: Schoolmates whose friendships ended throughout the 12 months have been thrice as prone to bully or victimize one another in the spring, whereas these whose friendships continued over the faculty 12 months have been over 4 instances as prone to bully these friends, researchers stated.

‘Frenemy impact’

This “frenemy effect” shouldn’t be defined by the quantity of time friends spent collectively, Faris defined. Additionally, “structurally equivalent” classmates — those that aren’t essentially friends, however who share many friends in widespread — are additionally extra prone to bully or in any other case victimize one another. Compared to schoolmates with no overlapping friendships, these whose friendships are completely overlapping are roughly thrice extra prone to bully one another, and those that share the identical bullies or victims are greater than twice as prone to bully one another.

Finally, being victimized by friends is especially painful, and is related to important will increase in signs of despair and nervousness, and important decreases at school attachment, researchers stated.

Real-life case

The paper cites the real-life case of Megan Meier, who hanged herself in 2007 after being bullied by individuals she thought have been her friends — with the added twist of a mom orchestrating the social media bullying scheme. “The tragedy of Megan Meier highlights more than the limitations of the criminal justice system in addressing complex, often subtle, social problems like bullying,” researchers stated. The case illustrates the want for analysis on this space: … “contrary to the once-prevailing view of bullying as a maladjusted reaction to psychological deficiencies, emotional dysregulation, empathy deficits, or problematic home lives, [the perpetrator of the bullying] is one of millions of adolescents who has harmed a schoolmate for instrumental reasons: to exact retribution, achieve prominence, or vanquish a rival,” researchers stated. Indeed, the analysis exhibits, “the desire for popularity motivates much aggressive behavior.”

Few anti-bullying applications work

Additionally, the researchers conclude, few anti-bullying applications work. “The reason for the typically low success rates, we believe, is that aggressive behavior accrues social rewards, and to a degree that leads some to betray their closest friends. Even the most successful prevention programs are unable to alter the aggressive behavior of popular bullies, who use cruelty to gain and maintain status,” the authors stated. The reputation contests ubiquitous in secondary colleges, the authors wrote, encourage peer bullying.

The authors counsel that efforts to assist and strengthen adolescent friendships — reminiscent of broadening extracurricular choices and internet hosting camps, trainings and retreats — may assist de-emphasize reputation and scale back the “frenemy effect.”

This work was supported by Pennsylvania State University and the National Science Foundation underneath an IGERT award DGE-1144860, Big Data Social Science.

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