Relational Aggression and Sociometric Status

Sociometric status, commonly referred as popularity, is one the most significant predictors of victimization or bullying behaviors. Although it is commonly believed that aggressive adolescents belong to rejected social groups, some research shows that they can be, in fact, popular among their peers. Rodkin et al. (2000), for example, describes two types of popular boys: ”model” boys, who are “physically and academically competent, friendly and neither shy nor aggressive. Second type is described as ‘though” and are “aggressive, physically competent, and average or below average in friendliness, academic competence, and shyness.” Usually the more popular aggressive adolescents use instrumental aggression and not reactive aggression Intstrumental aggression is defined as behavior that is deliberate and planned while reactive aggression is unplanned and impulsive. Relational aggression can be greatly instrumental for maintaining the popularity status of the group and specific relationships and dynamics inside the group. Ojala and Nesdale (2004) found that both victims and bullies normally come from rejected groups. Bullies chose to bully students, who are members of their social out-groups that are similar to their own in- group as a result of threatened distinctiveness. Hence, the need to maintain a unique social identity and status can be one of the causes to engage in bullying. Using relational aggression to maintain a particular social order inside the group has been mostly observed in girl groups: if some member of the group becomes too popular and this causes imbalance in the group, other members might start rumors about the overly popular girl to diminish her statue Amanda Rose et al. (2004) claims that the main purpose of using relational aggression in first place is to enhance or maintain one’s social status. Many skills that are needed to be popular are also essential for being “successful” at employing relational aggression, e.g. ability to “read” people and adjust one’s behavior accordingly, etc. The researcher suggests that some aggressive boys popular because they are also good at using relational aggression, and, therefore, their primary reason for popularity is not their physical aggression but relational aggression.