Survival of the Fittest and the Sexiest: Evolutionary Origins of Adolescent Bullying

The central idea of evolutionary psychology theory (EPT) is that species evolve to carry or exhibit certain traits/behaviors because these characteristics increase their ability to survive and reproduce. Proponents of EPT propose that bullying emerges from evolutionary development, providing an adaptive edge for gaining better sexual opportunities and physical protection, and promoting mental health. This study examines adolescent bullying behaviors via the lens of EPT. Questionnaires were administered to 135 adolescents, ages 13 to 16, from one secondary school in metro Vancouver, British Columbia. Participants were categorized into one of four groups (bullies, victims, bully/victims, or bystanders) according to their involvement in bullying interactions as measured by the Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire. Four dependent variables were examined: depression, self-esteem, social status, and social anxiety. Results indicate that bullies had the most positive scores on mental health measures and held the highest social rank in the school environment, with significant differences limited to comparisons between bullies and bully/victims. These results lend support to the hypothesis that youth bullying is derived from evolutionary development. Implications for approaching anti-bullying strategies in schools and directions for future studies are discussed.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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