In stereotypical scenes of high school drama, the jock shoves the nerd into a locker, and the prom queen torments the brace-face. When it comes to bullying, people assume the popular kids always tease the little guys.
But a new study has found that high schoolers are actually more likely to “pick on someone their own size.” Bullying occurs most often between friends or people on the same rung of the social ladder, according to a paper co-authored by Cassie McMillan, assistant professor of sociology, criminology, and criminal justice at Northeastern.
“Bullying is about increasing social status,” says McMillan. “We observed bullying among pairs of friends because friends often see each other as rivals who are competing over the same social rewards, such as the starting quarterback position or the interest of a potential romantic partner.”