Empirical Test of Bullies' Status Goals: Assessing Direct Goals, Aggression, and Prestige

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Abstract

The literature suggests that status goals are one of the driving motivations behind bullying behavior, yet this conjecture has rarely if ever been examined empirically. This study assessed status goals in three ways, using dyadic network analysis to analyze the relations and goals among 10-11 and 14-15 year olds in 22 school classes (Nboys=225;Ngirls=277). As a validation bullies were contrasted with victims. Bullies had direct status goals (measured with the Interpersonal Goal Inventory for Children) and showed dominance as measured with proactive aggression. Moreover, as predicted from a goal perspective, bullying behavior was related to prestige in terms of perceived popularity. In contrast, victims lacked status goals, were only reactively aggressive, and low on prestige. That being popular is not the same as being liked could be shown by the fact that bullies were just as rejected as victims by their classmates. Eighth-grade bullies had more direct status goals than fourth-grade bullies, possibly indicating that striving for the popularity component of status increases in early adolescence.

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