Casualties of Social Combat: School Networks of Peer Victimization and Their Consequences

Robert Faris, Diane Felmlee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


We point to group processes of status conflict and norm enforcement as fundamental elements in the development of school-based victimization. Socially vulnerable youth are frequently harassed for violating norms, but the logic of status competition implies they are not the only victims: to the extent that aggression is instrumental for social climbing, increases in status should increase risk-at least until the pinnacle of the hierarchy is reached. Victimization causes serious harm, and, we argue, at the margin these consequences will be magnified by status. We test these ideas using longitudinal network data on friendship and victimization from 19 schools. For most students, status increases the risk of victimization. However, youth at the uppermost extremes of the school hierarchy-students in the top 5 percent of centrality and those with cross-gender friendships where such friendships are rare-sit just above the fray, unlikely to fall victim to their peers. As expected, females and physically or socially vulnerable youth are victimized at particularly high rates. Victims experience psychological distress and social marginalization, and these adverse effects are magnified by status. For most students, gains in status increase the likelihood of victimization and the severity of its consequences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-257
Number of pages30
JournalAmerican sociological review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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