New York (CNN) - A new study commissioned by CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360°" found that the stereotype of the schoolyard bully preying on the weak doesn't reflect reality in schools.
Instead, the research shows that many students are involved in "social combat" - a constant verbal, physical and cyber fight to the top of the school social hierarchy.
"Kids are caught up in patterns of cruelty and aggression that have to do with jockeying for status," explains Robert Faris, a sociologist who "Anderson Cooper 360°" partnered with for the pilot study. "It's really not the kids that are psychologically troubled who are on the margins or the fringes of the school's social life. It's the kids right in the middle, at the heart of things ... often, typically highly, well-liked popular kids who are engaging in these behaviors."
Faris, along with the co-author of the study, Diane Felmlee, also found that bullies, who they call aggressors, and victims are not defined roles, but in many cases, they can be the same person. The higher a student rises on the social ladder, the more they bully other students and the more other students bully them.
"When kids increase in their status, on average, they tend to have a higher risk of victimization as well as a higher risk of becoming aggressive," Faris says.
The studywas conducted this spring at The Wheatley School, a nationally top-ranked high school on Long Island, New York. More than 700 students at the school were given a survey with 28 questions on aggressive behavior four separate times throughout the semester. They were also given a roster of the entire school in which every student had an identification number and kids were asked to write down specifically who did what.
Watch "The roots of bullying."
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