Washington, Jan ary 25: Middle school students take to bullying – either in the form of physical aggression or spreading rumors – to boost their social status and popularity, according to a new UCLA psychology study.
In addition, students already considered popular engage in these forms of bullying, the researchers found.
The psychologists studied 1,895 ethnically diverse students from 99 classes at 11 Los Angeles middle schools. They conducted surveys at three points: during the spring of seventh grade, the fall of eighth grade and the spring of eighth grade. Each time, students were asked to name the students who were considered the “coolest,” the students who “start fights or push other kids around” and the ones who “spread nasty rumors about other kids.”
Those students who were named the coolest at one time were largely named the most aggressive the next time, and those considered the most aggressive were significantly more likely to be named the coolest the next time. The results indicate that both physical aggression and spreading rumors are rewarded by middle school peers.
“The ones who are cool bully more, and the ones who bully more are seen as cool,” said Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychology and lead author of the study.
“What was particularly interesting was that the form of aggression, whether highly visible and clearly confrontational or not, did not matter. Pushing or shoving and gossiping worked the same for boys and girls.
“The impetus for the study was to figure out whether aggression promotes social status, or whether those who are perceived as popular abuse their social power and prestige by putting other kids down,” she said. “We found it works both ways for both ‘male-typed’ and ‘female-typed’ forms of aggression.”
The research is published online in the prominent Journal of Youth and Adolescence and will be appear in an upcoming print edition of the journal. (ANI)