Philip C. Rodkin, a professor of child development at the University of Illinois' College of Education, said that while most bullies are boys, their victims, counter to popular conception, are not just other boys.
"We found that a lot of male bullies between fourth and sixth grade are bullying girls – more than people would have anticipated – and a substantial amount of that boy-girl, cross-gender bullying goes unreported," he said.
Rodkin, who along with Christian Berger, a professor at the Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Santiago, Chile, published the paper "Who Bullies Whom? Social Status Asymmetries by Victim Gender" in the most recent issue of the International Journal of Behavioral Development, said cross-gender bullying hasn't been fully explored because of the ways researchers have thought about the social status dynamic of bullying in the past.
"Bullies are generally more popular than their victims, and have more power over their victim, whether it's physical strength or psychological power," Rodkin said. "Researchers have taken it for granted that a bully will also have a higher social status than their victims. Based on our research, that's not necessarily the case."
"In those cases where it was a boy picking on a girl, the bullies were regarded by their classmates as being quite unpopular," Rodkin said. "They were not alpha males, and they were probably more reactive in their aggression compared to the classic bully."