Study Shows That Bullies Have Lowest Rates of Depression


Many of the more tender-hearted social reformers suggest that bullies ought to be pitied rather than punished. It has become common folk wisdom that the bully is simply maladjusted, and acting out frustrations and traumas acquired from their own history of being abused or enduring a dysfunctional home life. However, recent studies suggest that bullying behavior may actually constitute a highly heritable collection of personality traits whose purpose is to elevate social rank and generate sex appeal.   

Survival Of The Meanest

Far from being the pitiable product of familial turmoil, researchers from Simon Fraser University found, after surveying a group of high school students, that bullies had the highest self-esteem and social status, and were least likely to be depressed. High school is at least as much about social status as academics, and according to Jennifer Wong, the criminology professor who headed the study, bullying is one of the most reliable social ladders to the top of the high school food chain.   

Born To Bully

According to Wong, anti-bullying programs tend to be such dismal failures because bullying behavior is likely the result of biological hard-wiring rather than learned behavior. In other words, it is not environmental stressors, but selective pressures, that generate bullying behavior. Bullies have their parents to thank for their behavior; not because the children were raised poorly, but because they inherited genes from their parents which predispose them to bullying. Instead of attempting to suppress bullying behavior, Wong suggests that schools widen the range of supervised competitive activities for students. This allows bullies to exercise their natural tendency toward dominating others in a more pro-social outlet.   

Sexy, Not Sadistic

Rather than being driven only, or even primarily, by a desire to harm others, some researchers think the purpose of bullying is to acquire higher social status with the intent to improve their chances with the opposite sex. In one study, for example, Brock University psychologist Tony Volk, after surveying 178 high school students, found that bullies had more sex than others. Like Wong, Volk and his colleagues paint a picture of a bully whose traits are advantageous insofar as they provide more sexual opportunities, higher self-esteem, social rank, and physical protection.

Bullied Into Bullying

Nevertheless, Rob Frenette, co-founder of the advocacy group Bullying Canada, rejects the notion that bullying is an inborn or genetic personality trait. Instead, he insists that an unhealthy environment is invariably one of the causes of bullying behavior. Having been a victim of bullying himself, he insists that he has yet to meet a bully who did not suffer from some kind of traumatic environmental stimulus. This constitutes a well-defined subset of bullies, however, which Volk refers to as “bully-victims.” Although they exist, Volk insists that 80-90 percent of bullies are “pure bullies,” who exhibit higher interpersonal skills and greater popularity than the more overtly disruptive and antisocial troubled bully-victims, and that the latter constitute a minority of bullies.