Success: A Canadian study has found child bullies are well adjusted people who torment others because it makes them more popular.
A victim-bully is what psychologists call a person turned bully because he was bullied himself.
Conventional wisdom has it that bullies are made, not born, but that might not be the case. The study published by Canadian researchers found that high school bullies had the highest self-esteem, status and lowest rates of depression. “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 …” While this small-scale study could not be considered definitive, Wong and her co-author say the results lend support to the theory that bullying is derived from evolutionary development. That’s probably because the behaviour is biologically hardwired, not learned. “From our perspective, it is correctable and I’ve heard from individuals who bullied in school and they are now adults who understand what they’ve done and the damage they have caused”. The study is hardly good news for anti-bullying advocates.
Bullies have more sex appeal and a higher social standing than everyone else, researchers claim.
“We’re getting at the idea that there’s a reason that people engage in bullying, because it brings them benefits”, said Wong.
The hypothesis may be a hard sell in the anti-bullying world, however, where the notion that many people bully because it is in their nature – and can’t be easily changed – is troublesome.
“I don’t agree with it at all and I’ve been doing this for 10 years”, says Rob Frenette, co-founder of Bullying Canada, a support and advocacy group.
He said: “This is kind of stepping backward and that’s concerning”. The responses led researchers to categorize 11% of participants as bullies.
Once categorized, the students completed further psychological tests. They are the ones who are troubled themselves and strike out in visible, blatant ways that quickly come to the attention of authorities, he says. The conclusions are likely to see some resistance, particularly from anti-bullying groups. S. (2015). Survival of the fittest and the sexiest: Evolutionary origins of adolescent bullying.
Simon Fraser University criminologist Jennifer Wong surveyed 135 teenagers from a high school in Vancouver with a questionnaire about bullying. They were divided into categories: bully, bystander, victim or victim-bully – children who learned their behaviour from others such as parents.
Wong admits there is more research to be done, but still recommends rethinking how bullying is dealt with, adding that mere punishment is usually ineffective, and sometimes even improves a bully’s social status. They may not be ideal but they do help, and reports of bullying are decreasing across the country, he said.
“There is a problem because these kids become adults who bully”. One was recently charged by police with a slew of criminal offences.
Instead we should offer them incentives which give them something in exchange for modifying how they act.