Popular kids — except those at the absolute top of the social ladder — are most likely to act aggressively toward other kids, a new study finds.
It isn’t aggression that makes kids more popular. But becoming more popular makes kids more aggressive, said study author Bob Faris, a sociologist at the University of California, Davis — suggesting that those kids see tormenting others as a way to gain and cement status.
Faris and his co-author, Diane Felmlee, reviewed a study that followed eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders in North Carolina over a year.
“For the most part, we find that status increases aggression,” Faris told LiveScience.
“For some people, that will be a surprise. For other people who have grown up quoting ‘Mean Girls,’ it might be an ‘Oh, duh’ kind of revelation,” he added, referring to the 2004 comedy about a clique of vicious but popular high school girls.
Faris and Felmlee report their findings today (Feb. 8) in the journal American Sociological Review.