“Our findings underscore the argument that—for the most part—attaining and maintaining a high social status likely involves some level of antagonistic behavior,” said Robert Faris, an assistant professor of sociology at UC Davis.
The study, co-authored by UC Davis sociology professor Diane Felmlee, is published in the February issue of the American Sociological Review. It also finds that those students in the top 2 percent of the school social hierarchy—along with those at the bottom—are the least aggressive.
“The fact that they both have reduced levels of aggression is true, but it can be attributed to quite different things,” Faris said. “The ones at the bottom don’t have the social power or as much capacity to be aggressive whereas the ones at the top have all that power, but don’t need to use it.”
Students’ popularity was determined by how central they were in their school’s web of friendships. The authors define aggression as behavior directed toward harming or causing pain to another. It can be physical (hitting, shoving or kicking), verbal (name-calling or threats) or indirect (spreading rumors or ostracism).
In general, the study, which followed kids over the course of a school year, finds that increases in social status for both males and females are accompanied by subsequent increases in aggression until a student approaches the top of the social hierarchy.
According to the researchers, adolescents in the top 2 percent of the social hierarchy—where aggression peaks—have an average aggression rate that is 28 percent greater than students at the very bottom and 40 percent greater than students at the very top. Aggression rate is calculated based on the number of classmates a student victimized in the past three months.
“Aggression usually requires some degree of social support, power or influence,” Faris said. “This is mostly because students expect to see each other on a daily basis at school and any act of aggression brings risk of retaliation. Those at the center of the web of social ties are, we believe, more powerful and may deter retribution.”
Yet, those students at the very top of the social hierarchy—who seemingly possess the most social capacity for aggressiveness—generally aren’t aggressive.
“If an adolescent at the top of the social hierarchy were to act aggressively towards his or her peers, such action could signal insecurity or weakness rather than cement the student’s position,” said Faris. “And, it’s possible that, at the highest level, they may receive more benefits from being pro-social and kind.”
Faris also acknowledged the possibility that kids at the top level are “somehow different” and “not disposed to aggressiveness in the first place.”
The Faris/Felmlee study relies on data from The Context of Adolescent Substance Use survey, a longitudinal survey of adolescents at 19 public schools in three counties in North Carolina that began in the spring of 2002. The Faris/Felmlee study is based on 3,722 eighth-, ninth- and 10th -grade students who participated during the 2004-5 school year.
While the study focuses on a sample of small-town and rural North Carolina students, Faris expects similar results in bigger cities.
“I would be surprised if kids in New York City or LA were radically different than kids in North Carolina,” Faris said.
As for policy implications of the study, Faris said interventions targeted specifically at aggressive kids or victims miss the point.
“I would start by focusing on the kids who are not involved and work on encouraging them to be less passive or approving of these sorts of antagonistic relationships,” he said. “It’s through these kids who are not involved that the aggressive kids get their power.”Media contact(s):
Robert Faris | EurekAlert!
Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research