A new study from Concordia University has delved into the phenomenon of peer victimization in schools, where antisocial kids and loners become the butt of bullying.
Such peer victimization may be an extreme group response to control renegades, according to the study.
"For groups to survive, they need to keep their members under control," said Professor William M. Bukowski.
"Withdrawn individuals threaten the strong social fabric of a group, so kids are victimized when they are too strong or too antisocial. Victimization is a reaction to anyone who threatens group harmony," he added.
The research team focused on social versus physical aggression among kids.
"Using aggression in ways that are acceptable by peers is critical in children keeping their social status and, in turn, their social dominance," said Bukowski.
Victims were described as "someone who gets hit or kicked by other kids; someone who gets beaten up by other kids; someone who gets ignored; someone who other kids say mean things about behind their back."
Bukowski said that educators and parents could help protect children from being victimized and prevent alpha-kids from becoming bullies.
To prevent victimization in classrooms and help neutralize bullying, teachers should foster egalitarian environments, where access to power is shared, he continued.
"Parents and educators should also encourage children who are withdrawn to speak up and assert themselves."
The study is published in the Journal of Early Adolescence.