Teens may be more likely to be bullied by social-climbing friends

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Some teenagers are willing to bully, harass, and torment their schoolmates in order to achieve popularity and other goals. But whom do they bully?

Adolescents and teens may be more likely to be bullied by their friends - and friends-of-friends - than classmates they don't know as well, according to a new study.

The researchers constructed "aggression networks" by asking students to nominate up to five classmates who had picked on or been mean to them, allowing the researchers to identify both bullies and victims. Participants also were asked to identify their friends at each wave, allowing the researchers to track friendships over time. In addition, the researchers measured anxiety, depression and how positively attached the students felt to their school.

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that peer aggression occurred at higher rates between friends, and friends-of-friends, than between those not closely tied.

Diane Felmlee, Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Demography at Penn State and researcher on the paper, said the findings give new insight into how and why bullying occurs - important information for anti-bullying efforts.

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