A study of “aggressive” social behaviors in adolescents revealed that not only is the social order in teenagers very complex, but the kids who are “almost” popular are far more likely to engage in bullying behaviors than those in the lower or higher echelons of high school society.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis published the findings in the February issue of American Sociological Review, and say that kids in the top 98th percentile of coolness are 40% more aggressive than their even cooler peers, the top 2%. Co-author of the study Robert Faris commented on why the most popular kids were viewed as kind by their classmates:
“We really don’t know why they are less aggressive, but we think they simply don’t have a need for it,” Faris says. “Being kind probably cements their position.”
The data reviewed did, however, suggest that only a third of kids engaged in the aggressive behaviors. But Faris pointed out that the behaviors proliferate due to acceptance or encouragement of the bullying by non-participating peers:
“The majority of kids who witness this, either give it tacit approval or outright encouragement,” says Faris. “Those are the ones who give these kids their status. We need to change their minds.”