Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"Status increases aggression"

The higher your social status, the more aggressive you become. The movies got it least for girls. The study reviewed at that link used survey results over the course of a year (I think) to determine that as a teenager moves up the social hierarchy s/he picks on people more.

Correlations and causations are notoriously difficult to evaluate, especially in a study based on self-report survey data. Asking students to name those they've picked on and that have picked on them in the last year (or whatever time period) might just as likely elicit a peculiar kind of status-establishing response.

Such reasoning would be unconscious, but would go like this, "I've picked on people that I would have used to have thought a bit cooler than I was, so since I've picked on them, I must be cooler than I was before. And that really cool person picked on me....Not bad, I'm movin' up."

Is it possible, in other words, that coolness self-talk includes an inventory of how a respondent has used the idea of bullying for social mobility, in his/her own mind?

Harassment, Intimidation, Bullying (HIB, it's now called) are widespread and corrosive at school, no doubt. They're also nuanced, subtle and often hard for adults to detect. The part I find most difficult is that a lot of kids don't want to imagine that their behavior might be destructive to someone else. The rationalization, justification, deflection impulse and machinery are amazing.

I see this problem most clearly with the pervasive "How many of you have ever been bullied?"
I hear a lot fewer adults asking students whether they have ever bullied. Clearly, almost of all of us have said destructive or hurtful things to others. We're both perpetrators and victims. Maybe it would be helpful for more of us to seriously examine our role as even low-level perpetrators.

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