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Social inequalities cause bullying, study shows

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Posted June 26, 2014
Picture: Bullying. Author: Diego Grez. Year: 2007. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Picture: Bullying. Author: Diego Grez. Year: 2007. Source: Wikimedia Commons

A new study, conducted by Claire F. Garandeau and her associates, shows that status hierarchy among classmates increases level of bullying. This discovery counter popular position that social stratification guarantees good relationships among adolescents.

The scholars defending the so called functionalist position argue that social stratification ensures good relationships among members of a group. They claim that stratification reduces the probability of conflicts, because members of stratified groups have no incentives to compete.

“Those at the bottom of the ladder should recognize that any attempt at aggressively challenging a higher-positioned peer is likely to fail, while individuals at the top of the hierarchy should find it unnecessary to attack lower-positioned peers due to their already granted advantage in accessing resources,” the scientists explain.

However, this view which was dominant for the long time is now challenged by so called “Balance of Power” perspective. Representatives of this new perspective claim that unequal distribution of social recognition fuels tension between individuals. Unpopular students are motivated to seek recognition and popular ones should try to maintain their position. One of the mechanisms helping to maintain social recognition among peers is bullying. Previous studies document that aggressive kids are more popular than their victims.

More and more empirical evidence supports the “Balance of Power” perspective. The preceding studies reveal positive statistical associations between level of hierarchy and bullying. However, direction of the causal relationship is unclear, because status of hierarchy may be the consequence of bullying as well.

In order to reveal causal direction, Garandeu and her colleagues explored data from large-scale longitudinal study. “This study investigates concurrent and longitudinal associations between classroom levels of status hierarchy and bullying in an adolescent sample,” sociologists write.

They analyzed a sample containing approximately 9723 individuals belonging to 583 classes. “Our findings demonstrated the temporal precedence of status hierarchy over bullying behaviors, supporting the view that the classroom imbalance of power facilitates the emergence of subsequent bullying,” the researchers claim. The results of the study show that good atmosphere in the class should be maintained by equal balance of power among peers.

Article: Garandeau F.C., Lee I.A., Salmivalli C., 2014, Inequality Matters: Classroom Status Hierarchy and Adolescents’ Bullying, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Volume 43, Issue 7, pp 1123-1133, source link.

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