Bullying boosts the social status and popularity of middle school students, according to a new UCLA study that has implications for programs aimed at combating school bullying.
Conducted at 11 Los Angeles middle schools, surveys were undertaken 3 times: 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."
The researchers found that the 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, 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 added. "We found it works both ways for both 'male-typed' and 'female-typed' forms of aggression."
The study clearly shows that bullying often increases social status and respect, implying that anti-bullying programs have to be sophisticated and subtle to succeed. "A simple message, such as 'Bullying is not tolerated,' is not likely to be very effective," Juvonen said,
Effective anti-bullying programs need to focus on the bystanders, who play a critical role and can either encourage or discourage bullying, suggests Juvonen. "Bystanders should be made aware of the consequences of spreading rumors and encouraging aggression and the damage bullying creates," she concluded.
Discuss this article in our forum
Mean Girls Are Everywhere
Workplace Bullying More Harmful Than Sexual Harassment
Source: University of California - Los Angeles