Popular children in school are more likely to be aggressive

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    Sabrina Philippe (psychologist)


    Popular children and young people in school are more often aggressive or disruptive. But being popular does not necessarily mean having many friends …

    Being known and loved by the greatest number is not without risk. Among some school children, popularity would lead to a “aggressive and disruptive behavior“according to U.S. researchers from Florida Atlantic University.

    Popular and dominant school children

    Would the conflict reinforce aggressive behavior? It is in an attempt to disprove this hypothesis that a group of scientists conducted the study.

    To do this, they recruited and observed the behavior of 356 students (181 girls, 172 boys) – ages 8 to 12 – and went to school in Florida.

    After various tests and observations, the researchers realized that the higher levels of aggression and disorder “was associated with an increase in popularity, especially among children who are regularly in conflict with their classmates “.

    Popularity is important for children and teens. Some believe that being popular is more important than having friends, as popularity is a marker of prestige, dominance and social status“, said the researchers.

    Disagreements with one or more aggressive children thus pose an implicit threat of harm, according to the authors. In order not to be in conflict, the other students are likely to submit, which increases the position of the dominant and the dominated.

    A similar process seems to work for disruptive children, although it is less pronounced. Submission in response to a disagreement with a disruptive child avoids irritating classmates who are aware of the risk of alienating someone who is willing to destabilize the group in order to achieve its goals.“, says Brett Laursen, the lead author.

    Leaders are often troublemakers because it is they who challenge authority who impose themselves. They must show that nothing scares them: Neither other children nor adults“, adds Dr. Sabrina Philippe, psychologist and member of Doctissimo’s expert committee.

    However, it is necessary to distinguish between what is of the order of “disturbance” or “aggression”: Some children may defy the teacher to show others their strength, but are not aggressive at all.

    Cast, pinch, push … Aggression is the majority, but common among young children. It is often a reflection of a frustration:

    Aggressiveness is always a sign of a bad creature. It is a reaction to physical or mental aggression. Why does this child feel attacked? That’s the question you have to ask yourself to try to understand what’s going on. “says Dr. Sabrina Philippe before adding “that in school the child who develops aggression may feel wronged, this is a sign of anger, frustration towards his classmates or his teachers”.

    The best way to reduce this type of behavior is to prevent it. Some practical advice can be applied in this direction on a daily basis:

    • Talk to children, listen to them;
    • Praise children for their positive behaviors;
    • Resolve conflicts as soon as they arise;
    • Resolve small conflicts before they escalate;
    • Become familiar with the factors that trigger aggressive behavior (poor social skills, mental health problems, etc.);
    • Know how to recognize the situations that cause a child to externalize his aggression and try to eliminate them or mitigate their effects;
    • To help children and young people learn the necessary skills to avoid outbreaks of aggression.


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