Do Bullies Have More Sex? The Role of Personality

Abstract

Previous research has shown that adolescent bullying is associated with having a higher number of sexual partners. Bullying may thus represent an effective behavior for increasing the number of sexual partners. However, bullying may be an effective behavior primarily for adolescents who possess personality traits that make them willing and able to use bullying as a strategy for obtaining sexual partners. Therefore, we predicted that individuals with antisocial personality traits would be more willing and able to engage in bullying, which in turn may increase their sexual opportunities. We tested this hypothesis across the span of adolescence by using cross-sectional samples of 144 older adolescents (N = 144; 111 women, M age = 18.32, SD = 0.63) and 396 younger adolescents (N = 396; 230 girls, M age = 14.64, SD = 1.52) to test direct and indirect links between HEXACO personality traits, bullying, and sexual partners. Path analyses provided some support for our hypothesis. In both samples, Honesty-Humility personality trait scores had indirect effects on sexual partners through bullying and direct effects on sexual partners in the younger sample. However, in the older sample, Agreeableness had indirect effects through bullying and Extraversion had direct effects, whereas in the younger sample, Conscientiousness had indirect effects through bullying. Our results suggest that exploitative traits may be associated with bullying and sexual partners across adolescence. We also note how other personality traits may differentially relate to bullying in older versus younger adolescents.

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Provenzano, D.A., Dane, A.V., Farrell, A.H. et al. Do Bullies Have More Sex? The Role of Personality. Evolutionary Psychological Science 4, 221–232 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40806-017-0126-4

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Keywords

  • Bullying
  • Adolescents
  • HEXACO
  • Personality
  • Reproduction
  • Evolution