If this 4-second clip is your image of teen bullies, it's time for a reality check. A study from the University of California-Davis dispels the notion of the beefy bully targeting the scrawniest nerd.

At the heart of high school bullying, the study found, are students targeting classmates a rung above or below them on the social ladder in order to improve their own social status.

"Most victimization is occurring in the middle to upper ranges of status," the study's author, Robert Faris, told the New York Times. "What we think often is going on is that this is part of the way kids strive for status. Rather than going after the kids on the margins, they might be targeting kids who are rivals."
Faris said there is relatively little bullying by the high school students at the very top and the very bottom of the social ladder: “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."

If anything, the coolest kids appear even cooler because they remain above the bullying fray, the study found.

The study examined survey responses over time by 3,722 eighth to tenth graders in North Carolina. The students were asked to name their best friends and to identify whether they had been the subject of aggressive behavior by peers or whether they had participated in such aggressive behavior. 

Popularity was determined in the study by how central friends were considered by other friends in their social webs. The study authors defined aggressive behavior as physical and verbal confrontations, as well as indirect forms of bullying such as spreading rumors or excluding people from activities.

Over time, students suffered more aggressive behaviors against them as they ascended the social ladder and posed threats to other classmates trying to do the same. If they reached the top, then they were no longer targeted.

Faris concluded that bullying policies are too limiting if they only target the most hostile kids or protect those who seem most vulnerable. What do you think? Do the research findings match your experiences as parents? Or your experiences as teens?


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