Contradicting earlier findings, a new study suggests that bullies are least likely to be depressed, have the highest self-esteem and the greatest social status.
“Humans tend to try to establish a rank hierarchy. 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,” lead researcher Jennifer Wong, a professor of criminology, was quoted as saying by National Post.
Researchers at Simon Fraser University surveyed a group of Vancouver high school students and got the results which oppose earlier assumptions about bullies.
Also, bullying is in the genes and not something learnt outside, the researchers said.
“Most anti-bullying programmes try to change the behaviour of bullies… and they usually don’t work, That’s probably because the behaviour is biologically hard-wired, not learned,” Wong said.
Wong and student Jun-Bin Koh surveyed 135 teenagers from a Vancouver high school. A standard questionnaire – asking things like how often they were “hit, kicked or shoved” – divided the students into the categories of bully, bystander, victim or victim-bully.
Some of the differences were not statistically significant, but bullies — “about 11 percent of the group” — came out on top on three main outcomes: they scored highest on self-esteem and social status and lowest on depression, said the study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
Wong recommended a rethinking of how schools tackle bullying, saying that merely punishing the perpetrators not only fails to work, but in some cases enhances their status.