New SFU research suggests bullying may be genetic

WATCH: A controversial new B.C. study suggests some people are born bullies.

Controversial new research from Simon Fraser University says there may be a genetic basis for bullying and schools could change the way they deal with the problem.

A survey of high school students conducted by SFU researchers found bullying behaviour is not a cry for help, as often suggested. Instead, it’s a hard-wired trait that can boost a person’s social status.

“Maybe there’s an innate reason that bullies are engaging in this kind of behaviour,” said Jennifer Wong, assistant professor in SFU’s School of Criminology. “Maybe it’s not because they have bad home lives or because they suffered these additional risk factors. Maybe it’s something else.”

Instead of silently suffering on the inside, the study found bullies had higher self-esteem, social status, and even sex appeal.

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WATCH: Concerns over SFU bullying study

“We’re getting at the idea that there’s a reason that people engage in bullying, because it brings them benefits,” said Wong.

But some say it may be dangerous to suggest bullying stems from nature and not nurture.

“[Hopefully] parents are going to see this and not think, so my son or daughter is a bully, they were born this way,” said Rob Frenette of “There’s nothing we can do to change that.”

The SFU researchers agree that bullies can change if schools offer organized activities that can serve as more positive outlets for their assertive behaviour.

-With files from John Hua

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