A Treacherous Climb Up The Social Ladder

Interesting. I was never seriously victimized as a child, but the sociology of bullying interests me. When you boil it down, the social forces at work are very similar for adults and children…what changes is the flexibility of the setting.

The Dish

While studying the causes and motivations of high school bullying, UC Davis sociologist Robert Faris found that kids who ascend the social hierarchy, especially girls, run a high risk of being victimized:

Faris was interested in understanding bullying at a deeper level, to identify “hotspots” of conflict and aggression in school-based hierarchies. He and his colleague Diane Felmlee, professor of sociology at Pennsylvania State University, investigated whether there were other reasons for students’ aggression toward one another, such as using it as a tool for social climbing.

Their results, published in American Sociological Review, suggest that kids get bullied not only when they don’t fit in, but also when they are simply trying to avoid being victims by moving up the social ladder. “As social status increases, the involvement in aggression–both as perpetrator and now as victims–also tends to go up until they get to the very top, when things start to reverse,” says Faris.


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