Bullies are also less likely to be depressed.
By Raif Karerat
WASHINGTON, DC: A recently published study by scientists from Canada indicates bullying behavior is linked to higher-self esteem and social status along with a lower likelihood of being depressed.
Conventional wisdom has long suggested that bullies are maladapted, troubled people, who lash out because they had been abused or harassed themselves or at least had dysfunctional home lives.
However, the National Post reported that when researchers at Simon Fraser University observed a group of Vancouver high school students, they determined bullying helped build social rank and sex appeal.
“Humans tend to try to establish a rank hierarchy,” Jennifer Wong, a criminology professor who led the study, told The 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.”
According to Medical Daily:
Dr. Jennifer Wong, an assistant professor in the school of criminology, and student Jun-Bin Koh surveyed 135 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16 from a Vancouver high school. They used the Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire, a standard survey for categorizing students into four classifications: bully, bystander, victim, or victim-bully. Questions asked how often students were “hit, kicked, or shoved” or bullied with “mean names, comments, or gestures.”
One item requests students respond to the statement, “Other students left me out of things on purpose, excluded me from their group of friends, or completely ignored me.” Once categorized, the students completed further psychological tests. The researchers examined the results for four key variables: depression, self-esteem, social status, and social anxiety.
The bullies, who comprised about 11 percent of the participants, had the highest social rank within the school, higher self-esteem, and low levels of depression.
While the small-scale study could hardly be considered definitive, Wong and her co-author told Medical Daily the results lend support to the theory that bullying is derived from evolutionary development.
“Bullying emerges from evolutionary development, providing an adaptive edge for gaining better sexual opportunities and physical protection, and promoting mental health,” they wrote in their conclusion. The pecking order, quite literal in the case of bullies, benefits those at the top.
However, Rob Frenette, co-founder of the advocacy and support group Bullying Canada, says he has yet to encounter a bully who did not have some underlying issue — such as violence at home — that was a likely environmental trigger for the bullying.
“This is kind of stepping backward and that’s concerning,” he said of Wong’s study while speaking to The Post. “I don’t want parents who have a child who is considered a bully to think, ‘Well, it’s something they’re born with and there’s nothing we can do to adjust their behavior.’”