If, When, and Why Adolescent Bullying Is Adaptive

Anthony Volk, Joseph A. Camilleri, Andrew Dane and Zopito Marini

in The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Violence, Homicide, and War

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199738403
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 If, When, and Why Adolescent Bullying Is Adaptive

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  • Social Psychology
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Adolescent bullying appears to be a cross-cultural, worldwide phenomenon. A substantial literature has addressed this phenomenon due to the important implications bullying presents for adolescents. The ubiquity of bullying, along with its heritability, suggests the possibility that some bullying may be the result of evolved adaptations. Unfortunately, the bullying literature has failed to formally examine this possibility in depth. The current chapter is an effort to redress this situation as we look at if, when, and why adolescent bullying is adaptive. We find significant evidence for the functionality of modern bullying and the absence of psychopathologies typically associated with maladaptive development, supporting the claim that bullying may be an evolved adaptation. Evidence from hunter-gatherers and historical data further support this claim. We examine the individual differences, contextual factors, and developmental pathways that may lead to bullying being an important, functional, adaptive behavior among adolescents. We end the chapter with a discussion of the implications an adaptive view of bullying has for intervention, research, and adolescents.

Keywords: bullying; evolution; evolution of bullying; adolescents; aggression

Article.  14848 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Developmental Psychology

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