Middle school bullies often dubbed cool kids

Middle school bullies often dubbed cool kids

Bullying may be the quickest path to popularity in middle school according to a recent study.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), found that those students who wield power through physical aggression and spreading rumors are also perceived as popular and cool.

Psychologists followed nearly 2,000 students at 11 Los Angeles area middle schools and conducted interviews during the spring of seventh grade and again in the fall and spring of eighth grade. When those students were asked who they felt were the “coolest” kids in the school, the known bullies were named.

Results of the surveys showed that physical aggression and the spread of gossip worked to raise the social status of those engaged in bullying behavior. It worked for both boys and girls.

“The ones who are cool bully more, and the ones who bully more are seen as cool,” said Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychology and lead author of the study, in a statement. “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 result of the study raises questions about the effectiveness of current anti-bullying strategies. Just having general rules against bullying doesn’t get to the heart of the problem, the researchers said. The approach has to be more calculated and focus attention on those who help perpetuate the rumors and gossip and encourage them to not make the problem worse by spreading the negativity.

“A simple message, such as ‘Bullying is not tolerated,’ is not likely to be very effective,” Juvonen said, when bullying often increases social status and respect.

Health experts say that parents whose children are being bullied should meet with school administrators and insist that appropriate steps be taken to stop the aggression. Encouraging your child to join clubs, youth groups and be engaged in sports or hobbies can work to build a network of supportive friends.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.