Bullies use their dominance and manipulation in all areas of life, reveals study

Sarah Young
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Teenagers who use exploitative behaviour for personal gain are likely to have more sex than their kinder counterparts, new research reveals.

A study by the University of Windsor in Canada believes that bullying could be more than just objectionable behaviour.

Instead, researchers suggest that those with exploitative and manipulative traits do so as a way of showing dominance and strength and to scare off potential rivals, Eurekalert reports.

Published in Springer’s journal Evolutionary Psychological Science, researchers investigated individual personality differences that might make one person more willing and able to use bullying tactics when competing for a sexual partner.

They asked 144 older adolescents (with a mean age of 18.3) and 396 younger adolescents (with a mean age of 14.6) to complete questionnaires about their sex life, number of sexual partners and frequency of bullying perpetration.

Researchers also learnt about six other aspects of the participants’ personalities including their willingness to cooperate with others, or to exploit and antagonise others.

The latter was measured by looking at how agreeable someone was, as well as how honest and humble they were. Those who did not score highly in these measures tended to display antisocial personality traits and were subsequently considered to be bullies.

As a result, the team found that younger adolescents who scored low in honesty and humility were more likely to use bullying tactics to pursue more sexual partners.

“Younger adolescents lower in 'Honesty-Humility' may therefore strategically manipulate others in a variety of ways to obtain more sexual partners,” said study author, Daniel Provenzano.

“Our findings indirectly suggest that exploitative adolescents may have more sexual partners if they are able to strategically use exploitative behaviour like bullying to target weaker individuals.”


Provenzano also suggests that these adolescents may use bullying to display traits such as dominance to attract sexual partners and attempt to threaten or show their rivals in a bad light.

“Our results suggest that both research and intervention efforts with older and younger adolescents need to recognise and respond to the relationships between personality, sex and bullying,” Provenzano concludes.