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Drones More Likely to be Mean Than Queen Bees

By Meredith Carroll |


A new study says it's not the kids at the top who are most guilty of picking on their peers

There are few adults I know who look back on their middle and high school years with much more than a grimace on their face. Kids are tough, particularly girls. To the brave men and women who go in the classroom with the tween to teen crown every day and try to get through to their hormone-riddled bodies and minds, my hat is off to you. I wouldn’t do it.

Of course not every teen is a tormentor. There are always leaders and those who happily and compulsively follow them. But according to a new study, it’s not necessarily the kids on top who are always the meanest ones. Researchers from the University of California, Davis, found that kids in the top 98th percentile of a school’s social pecking order are 40% more aggressive than those at the very top (and are 30% worse than the least popular kids).

“The more kids crave popularity, the more aggressive they are,” says co-author of the study, Robert Faris, assistant professor of sociology at UC Davis, according to

And while girls and boys “victimize other students at about the same rate, girls are victimized at higher rates, both by boys and by other girls.”

For the purpose of the study, the aggression rate is determined by the number of classmates a student has victimized by hitting, shoving, kicking or verbally assaulting (name-calling and threatening) in the past three months. Spreading rumors with the intention of ostracizing another kid was also considered an aggressive behavior. The researchers found that popularity status increased levels of aggression, but the same was not true in reverse.

Bullies drive me nuts and break my heart. I hate seeing or hearing about kids getting picked on, and the notion that kids will do it so that others will like them makes me sick to my stomach. Hopefully parents and teachers everywhere talk to their kids about how much cooler it is to be kind to everyone than cruel to anyone, and that popularity gained by aggression is only a short term solution to what is probably a larger problem.

I recognize that kids picking on other kids to make others like them is something that won’t go away anytime soon, but a mom can dream, can’t she?

Image: MorgueFile

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About Meredith Carroll


Meredith Carroll

Meredith C. Carroll is an award-winning columnist and writer based in Aspen, Colorado. She can be found regularly on the Op-Ed page of The Denver Post. From 2005-2012 her other column, "Meredith Pro Tem" ran in several newspapers, as well as occasionally on The Huffington Post since 2009. Read more about her (or don’t, whatever) at her website. Read bio and latest posts → Read Meredith's latest posts →

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2 thoughts on “Drones More Likely to be Mean Than Queen Bees

  1. Jessica Tolliver says:

    As the mother of two girls–10 and 7–I see that. My girls are on the young side still, but the “mean girls” they do know are definitely not “popular”. The girls who are friendly and easy to get along with are the ones that have a lot of friends, while the mean ones are outsiders.

    I’ve always believed that the archetype of the popular, mean girl with her bevy of followers is something we only see on TV and in movies. In real life, most girls are smart enough to avoid the mean ones, rather than falling in to lockstep behind them. Not sure why the people who make the TV shows and movies are so drawn to that character. It perpetuates an ugliness that is not really there and–even worse, I think–presumes that most girls are too dumb to hang out with the people they really like.

  2. Meredith Carroll says:

    @Jessica — Thanks for the thoughtful comment. It’s so sad to me that some girls think they have to be mean to get ahead.

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