Bullies intimidate people they see as weak or vulnerable
There is an inter-generational continuity of personality disorders as bullying and narcissism. Maybe bullies grow up to become narcissists?
Both personalities are somewhat genetically predestined and heritable. Bullying is 70% heritable. Twin studies are a gold standard of behavioral genetics, a science that investigates the nature and origins of individual differences in human behavior. Genetics and environment exposure are both tied to certain personality types.
In twin studies, the ACE model is often used to decypher variability into genetic. The A represents additive genetic traits, then C represents the common environment in school or home that are shared by siblings, and E represents unique non-genetic features or error. Based on teacher’s reports, up to 34% of kids are involved in bullying (bully, victim, or both) at any given time. And approximately 10% of all children are pure bullies. No difference between boys and girls, both genders are involved in physical or verbal bullying.
Do these kids become adult narcissists later in life, unable to experience empathy for others?
Being a bully or victim tends to run in families, according to new research from the Department of Biological Psychology in Amsterdam. Parents who were bullied tend to give the victimization “gene” to their children; up to 55% of parents who reported a history of being victims of psychological or physical harassment as a child had the same pattern repeating to the offsprings. Only 5% of fathers who never were bullies, had kids with troubling bullying behavior; however, if the father was a bully himself, his offsprings had higher chances of becoming a bully.
Twin studies are designed to uncover whether the shared genetics or shared household are tied to personality problems. Teachers were asked to fill out the survey to evaluate 300 twin pairs aged 6–12 years old and describe whether there are any signs of a child being victimized by peers. Over thirty percent of the children inherited the risk of victimization. However, when 5200 twin pairs who were asked to self-evaluate their victimization experiences, the heritability of victimization was determined by researchers in the range of 35% -45%. When mothers were asked to validate the children’s self-reports of abuse, the heritability was reported by several scientific groups to be as high as 71% in primary school and 77% in secondary school.
When it comes to being a bully, a team of behavioral geneticists and psychologists studied at 4561 twin pairs from Netherlands Twin Register (2892 pairs were non-identical). Teachers in primary school were approached with a survey, and the results revealed clear a correlation between a kid being a bully and his/her parent’s history of bullying. The heritability of narcissism is estimated at 23%- 35%, and a father with a narcissistic personality is more likely to supply genetic material of narcissism to daughter.
Bullying behavior is modifiable at an early age, but if the pattern is left unaccounted, these bullies are excellent candidates for becoming adult narcissist with little regard for others.
Cruelty, bullying, or meanness to others are directly related to impulsivity and antisocial behavior, and both are genetically influenced. The power imbalance between the victim and the bully could be psychological or physical, and many adults do not outgrow the early age personality troubles.
Anna Deveaux, M.Sc. is a learner, writer, biotech investor who is interested in research translation, drug development, genetics.