With friends like these: Aggression from amity and equivalence

Robert Faris, Diane Felmlee, Cassie McMillan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Some teenagers are willing to bully, harass, and torment their schoolmates in order to achieve popularity and other goals. But whom do they bully? Here, we extend the logic of instrumental aggression to answer this question. To the extent that friendships are the currency of social status, we should expect social aspirants to target their own friends, their friends’ friends, and other structurally equivalent schoolmates. This tendency, we argue, extends beyond what would be explained by propinquity, and we expect that victimization by friends will be particularly distressing. We test these hypotheses using panel social network data from 14 middle and high schools at two time points during a school year. Findings from temporal exponential random graph models suggest that our expectations are correct: the tendency to be cruel to friends is not significantly influenced by propinquity, and victimization by friends has adverse consequences for mental health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)673-713
Number of pages41
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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