Cool kids get bullied too: Researchers find popular children are harder hit by the effects of bullying

Researchers believe becoming popular increases risk of being bullied
Also say being popular worsens the negative consequences of being victimized

Daily Mail, 1 April 2014, UK

Researchers have claimed that the 'cool kids' are just as likely to get bullied as unpopular children - and that the consequences could be greater for them.

Researchers say the bullying of popular children was an 'invisible crime' as many refused to acknowledge problems for fear of ruining their standing.

They also found becoming more popular both increases the risk of getting bullied and worsens the negative consequences of being victimized.

The University of California, Davis, study found that popular children feel they have further to fall.'

'In contrast to stereotypes of wallflowers as the sole targets of peer aggression, adolescents who are relatively popular are also at high risk of harassment, the invisible victims of school-based aggression,' said Robert Faris, associate professor of sociology at UC Davis and co-author of the study.

Females and physically or socially vulnerable youth are also victimized at particularly high rates, according to the study, but most striking was the prevalence of relatively popular youth among the ranks of the victims.

The study found that the risk of being bullied increases as adolescents climb their school's social ladder — up until they approach the very top, when the risk plummets.

The students at the top, approximately the 5 percent most popular kids in school, sit just above the fray, possibly because their extremely high status puts them out of reach of any rivals.

The study looked at the social networks of 4,000 youths in three counties in North Carolina. Study subjects from 19 schools, enrolled in grades eight through 10, were asked various questions and asked to name their five closest friends.

From this, the authors were able to construct social networks resembling large webs of friendships with a dense hub in the center made up of the most popular students.

The study found victims of harassment suffered psychological, social and academic consequences, and they experienced high levels of anxiety, anger and depression.

'Most of these adverse consequences were worse for high-status targets, because while socially marginal youth are often brutally tormented, a single bullying event may be particularly psychologically and socially damaging for popular students, who feel that they have farther to fall,' Faris said.