The study was led by Daniel Provenzano of the University of Windsor in Canada.
Researchers believe that bullying might be more than just objectionable behaviour. It might, in fact, have evolved as a way for men to show dominance and strength, and to signal to women that they are good breeding stock, able to protect their offspring and provide for their needs.
Provenzano and his colleagues investigated individual personality differences that might make one person more willing and able to use bullying tactics when competing for sexual partners">sexual partners than others.
Two sets of participants were recruited: 144 older adolescents (with a mean age of 18.3) and 396 younger adolescents (with a mean age of 14.6). Participants had to fill in questionnaires about their sex life and number of sexual partners">sexual partners, as well as frequency of bullying perpetration.
Through another questionnaire, the researchers learnt more about six different aspects of the participants' personality, such as their willingness to cooperate with others, or to exploit and antagonise others.
The latter is measured by looking at how agreeable and emotionally in tune someone is, as well as how honest and humble they are. Those who do not score high in these latter measures tend to display antisocial personality traits and to subsequently be bullies.
"Our findings indirectly suggest that exploitative adolescents may have more sexual partners">sexual partners if they are able to strategically use exploitative behaviour like bullying to target weaker individuals."
They might also use bullying to put their rivals in a bad light, or to threaten rivals into withdrawing from intra-sexual competition in order to gain advantage when it comes to potential sexual partners">sexual partners.
"Our results suggest that both research and intervention efforts with older and younger adolescents need to recognize and respond to the relationships between personality, sex and bullying," explains Provenzano.
The findings have been published in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science. (ANI)