A newly published study conducted by a Canadian university suggests that childhood bullying, rather than being disordered behavior from troubled people, is actually a genetic behavior that has many positive effects on one’s life. The study is hardly good news for anti-bullying advocates.
According to researchers at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, those who bully others in high school tend to have higher self-esteem, lower rates of depression, and higher social status than peers who did not bully.
“Humans tend to try to establish a rank hierarchy,” said criminology professor and lead author Jennifer Wong, according to the National Post. “When you’re in high school, it’s a very limited arena in which you can establish your rank, and climbing the social ladder to be on top is one of the main ways … Bullying is a tool you can use to get there.”
The study could have significant implications for how schools and other parts of society try to handle bullying. Currently, the focus has been on trying to change bully’s behavior, often in the belief the behavior is a social one they have learned from abusive environments. Instead, Wong said, the behavior is probably coded in certain people’s genes. Instead, Wong says, a better solution may be to offer children more outlets for healthy competition so they can achieve social status in a more structured way without having to attack others.
Rob Frenette, the founder of the anti-bullying organization Bullying Canada, says the study strongly contradicts his own findings.
“Based on our information, research and the experts we’ve spoken to over the years, bullying is a learned behavior,” Frenette told News1130. “If you dig into a bullying situation, there’s usually some underlying fact that’s causing a bully to act out.”
But Wong isn’t alone, as her new study is also backed up by work conducted by Tony Volk at Brock University in Ontario. Volk, who helped develop the theory of bullying as a genetic trait, found in a recent study that bullies ended up getting more dates and having more sex than their peers, indicating that bullying is a path to reproductive success. Volk told the National Post that from his research, only about 10 percent of bullies are what he calls “bully-victims,” those who aggressively and sometimes violently lash out against others because of problems in their own lives. About 90 percent of bullies, he said, are “pure bullies” who are socially well-adjusted and have no clear problems, but engage in bullying anyway.
“The average bully isn’t particularly sadistic or even deeply argumentative,” Volk said. “What they really are is people driven for status.”
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