Popular Teens Are Victims of Bullying, Too


It seems like a stupid April Fool’s headline, but a recent study has actually found that teens who are in with the in-crowd are “unnoticed victims of school-based aggression.” As they work their way up high school’s social ladder and increase their status, kids’ chances of being bullied increases by more than 25 percent.

For the report published this week in the journal American Sociological Association, more than 4,000 8th, 9th and 10th graders from 19 public schools in North Carolina were asked to name up to five peers who they picked on or were mean to, and five more peers who picked on or were mean to them.

Researchers then used the data to create “a sort of social networking map” of the schools. While the “traditional pattern” of bullying of loners and outcasts was present, the map helped identify the victims “hidden in plain sight.” The Gretchen Weiners. The Heather Dukes. The kids who were part of the inner circles, but not the leaders.

According to Robert Faris, an associate professor at the University of California, Davis and lead author of the study, those teens are being targeted because they “occupy desirable social positions that their rivals seek.”

Additionally, researchers found that the more popular the students were, the harder the bullying affected them emotionally—”the more popular students reported feeling more anger, anxiety and depression from a single incident of bullying than the less popular students.”

“I think what’s going on there is that the kids who fit that first pattern of bullying, where they’re vulnerable and different … these are kids who’ve generally been picked on, often brutally, since childhood,” Faris says. “By the time they get to high school, they already have elevated levels of depression and anxiety. A given incidence of bullying doesn’t alter their sense of self.”

Interestingly, researchers purposely did not use the term “bullying” when addressing the kids. It’s apparently too loaded, thanks to media coverage, and also, teens think it applies to elementary school. Instead, high schoolers use the term “drama.” What’s evident from all of this research is that high school operates very much like the Real Housewives franchise.

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