Skip to content

    Health & Parenting

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Children May Learn Bullying by Example

    Environment Plays a Major Role in Shaping Children's Social Behavior

    WebMD Health News

    July 13, 2005 -- Bad genes may make a brute, but it takes a bad environment to make a bully.

    A new study shows that it's bad influences more so than genes that are behind making children bullies.

    Researchers say the results show that the type of social aggression that makes young girls and boys hurt each other with social snubs and snobbery may have very different roots than the type of physical aggression involved in picking fights.

    Seeking Out the Source of Bullying

    In the study, researchers analyzed the roots of social and physical aggression in a group of 234 6-year-old twins.

    Researchers had the girls' peers and teachers rate their physical and social aggressiveness, and their results showed that the twins' shared genes explained most of the differences in physical aggression, but relatively few of the differences in social aggression.

    For example, shared genes accounted for about 50%-60% of the variation in physical aggression. But genetics only accounted for about 20% of the differences in social aggression.

    Instead, shared or unique environmental factors appeared to explain most of the variation in social aggression (60%).

    Researchers say it's the first study to show that social aggression seems to be determined to a lesser extent by genetic factors and to a greater extent by environmental factors than physical aggression.

    The study also showed that children reported to have high levels of physical aggression were more likely to become socially aggressive.

    Researchers say those findings support the notion that aggressive behaviors passed down through the genes may be initially expressed in physical means, such as throwing punches, and later replaced by socially aggressive behaviors, such as bullying.

    "Whether and when this developmental shift occurs, however, may depend on the extent to which the child is exposed to an environment that specifically promotes the use of social aggression," says researcher Mara Brendgen of the University of Quebec in Montreal, in a news release.

    "Our results have important implications for preventive interventions," she says, "as they suggest that reducing physically aggressive behavior at an early age might also help prevent the development of social aggression in young children." she says.

    Today on WebMD

    Girl holding up card with BMI written
    Is your child at a healthy weight?
    toddler climbing
    What happens in your child’s second year.
     
    father and son with laundry basket
    Get your kids to help around the house.
    boy frowning at brocolli
    Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
     
    mother and daughter talking
    Tool
    child brushing his teeth
    Slideshow
     
    Sipping hot tea
    Slideshow
    Young woman holding lip at dentists office
    Video
     
    Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
    Article
    rl with friends
    fitSlideshow
     
    tissue box
    Quiz
    Child with adhd
    Slideshow