National Post

A just-published Canadian study has added heft to a provocative new theory about bullying: that the behaviour is literally in the genes, an inherited trait that actually helps build social rank and sex appeal.

If accepted, the hypothesis rooted in evolutionary psychology could transform how schools confront the persistent and often-shattering problem.

Conventional wisdom has long suggested that bullies are “maladapted,” troubled people, lashing out because they had been abused or harassed themselves or at least had dysfunctional home lives.

Don MacKinnon for National Post Don MacKinnon for National Post

But researchers at Simon Fraser University surveyed a group of Vancouver high school students and found bullies were the least likely to be depressed, had the highest self-esteem and the greatest social status.

“Humans tend to try to establish a rank hierarchy,” says Jennifer Wong, the criminology professor who led the study. “When you’re in high school, it’s a very limited arena in which you…

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