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Do Bullies Have More Sex? The Role of Personality

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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, Mage = 18.32, SD = 0.63) and 396 younger adolescents (N = 396; 230 girls, Mage = 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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RESEARCH ARTICLE
Do Bullies Have More Sex? The Role of Personality
Daniel A. Provenzano
1
&Andrew V. Dane
2
&Ann H. Farrell
2
&Zopito A. Marini
3
&
Anthony A. Volk
3
#Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017
Abstract Previous research has shown that adolescent bully-
ing is associated with having a higher number of sexual part-
ners. 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 per-
sonality traits would be more willing and able to engage in
bullying, which in turn may increase their sexual opportuni-
ties. 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 per-
sonality 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 sex-
ual 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 bully-
ing. Our results suggest that exploitative traits may be
associated with bullying and sexual partners across adoles-
cence. We also note how other personality traits may differen-
tially relate to bullying in older versus younger adolescents.
Keywords Bullying .Adolescents .HEXACO .Personality .
Reproduction .Evolution
Adolescence is a period marked by the development of sexual
characteristics and the initiation of sexual behavior (Baams
et al. 2015). Sexual behavior during adolescence is fairly
widespread in Western cultures (Zimmer-Gembeck and
Helfland 2008) with nearly two thirds of youth having had
sexual intercourse by the age of 19 (Finer and Philbin 2013).
During adolescence, peer networks expand as youth transition
from same-sex to mixed-sex peer groups (Connolly et al.
2004), which may both foster and be a response to opportuni-
ties for sexual activity. However, some adolescents are more
successful than others in finding sexual partners (de Bruyn
et al. 2012). One reason may be due to their ability to success-
fully engage in intrasexual competition for partners (de Bruyn
et al. 2012; Pellegrini and Long 2003). Bullying behavior may
aid in intrasexual competition and intersexual selection as a
strategy when competing for mates. In line with this conten-
tion, bullying has been linked to having a higher number of
dating and sexual partners (Dane et al. 2017;Volketal.2015).
This may be one reason why adolescence coincides with a
peak in antisocial or aggressive behaviors, such as bullying
(Volk et al. 2006). However, not all adolescents benefit from
bullying. Instead, bullying may only benefit adolescents with
certain personality traits who are willing and able to leverage
bullying as a strategy for engaging in sexual behavior with
opposite-sex peers. Therefore, we used two independent
cross-sectional samples of older and younger adolescents to
*Daniel A. Provenzano
provenz1@uwindsor.ca
1
Department of Psychology, University of Windsor, 401 Sunset Ave,
Windsor, ON N9B 3P4, USA
2
Department of Psychology, Brock University, 1812 Sir Isaac Brock
Way, St. Catharines, ON L2S 3A1, USA
3
Department of Child and Youth Studies, Brock University, 1812 Sir
Isaac Brock Way, St. Catharines, ON L2S 3A1, USA
Evolutionary Psychological Science
https://doi.org/10.1007/s40806-017-0126-4
determine which personality traits, if any, are associated with
leveraging bullying into opportunities for sexual behavior.
Bullying and Sexual Behavior
Traditionally, bullying has been viewed as a maladaptive be-
havior resulting from problems in developmental functioning
(Crick and Dodge 1999). However, the ubiquity of bullying
across cultures (Craig et al. 2009;Volketal.2012), and its
heritability (Ball et al. 2008), suggest that bullying may be, at
least in part, an evolutionary adaptation. Volk et al. (2014)
outline that adolescents may use bullying to obtain reproduc-
tively relevant outcomes that reliably led to survival and re-
production in the ancestral past. Consistent with this research,
recent studies have found that adolescent bullies were more
likely to engage in sexual intercourse and that bullying was
related to having more sexual partners (Dane et al. 2017; Volk
et al. 2015). Previous theory and research suggest that bully-
ing facilitates intrasexual competition and intersexual selec-
tion. For example, bullying by males signal the ability to pro-
vide good genes, material resources, and protect offspring
(Buss and Shackelford 1997;Volketal.2012) because bully-
ing others is a way of displaying attractive qualities such as
strength and dominance (Gallup et al. 2007; Reijntjes et al.
2013). As a result, this makes bullies attractive sexual partners
to opposite-sex peers while simultaneously suppressing the
sexual success of same-sex rivals (Gallup et al. 2011;Koh
and Wong 2015; Zimmer-Gembeck et al. 2001). Females
may denigrate other females, targeting their appearance and
sexual promiscuity (Leenaars et al. 2008; Vaillancourt 2013),
which are two qualities relating to male mate preferences.
Consequently, derogating these qualities lowers a rivalsap-
peal as a mate and also intimidates or coerces rivals into with-
drawing from intrasexual competition (Campbell 2013; Dane
et al. 2017; Fisher and Cox 2009; Vaillancourt 2013). Thus,
males may use direct forms of bullying (e.g., physical, verbal)
to facilitate intersexual selection (i.e., appear attractive to fe-
males), while females may use relational bullying to facilitate
intrasexual competition, by making rivals appear less attrac-
tive to males. However, though theory and research suggests
bullying may be a tool that facilitates intrasexual competition
and intersexual selection, individual differences in personality
may determine whether adolescents are willing and able to
employ this strategy when competing for mates.
Bullying and Personality
Individual differences in the willingness and ability to use
bullying may be influenced by variations in personality traits
(Connolly and O'Moore 2003). The HEXACO measure of
personality is an evolutionarily informed, six-factor model of
personality that emphasizes potential reproductive associa-
tions with personality (Ashton and Lee 2007). It is similar to
the Big Five factor model, but with greater cross-cultural va-
lidity and more emphasis on differentiating between different
aspects of antisocial traits (Ashton and Lee 2007). Three di-
mensions relate to effort applied to various social, task-related,
and idea-related endeavors (eXtraversion, Conscientiousness,
and Openness to Experience; Ashton and Lee 2007). The
other three dimensions are related to cooperating with, versus
exploiting or antagonizing, others (Honesty-Humility,
Emotionality, and Agreeableness; Ashton and Lee 2001).
The lower poles of these latter three personality dimensions
are associated with unique aspects of antisociality.
A recent meta-analysis of the Big Five factor model re-
vealed that lower Agreeableness, lower Conscientiousness,
higher Extraversion, and higher Neuroticism were associated
with bullying perpetration (Mitsopoulou and Giovazolias
2015). The HEXACOs Honesty-Humility factor shares little
variance with the Big Five (Lee et al. 2008) and better captures
traits that involve exploitation and deception (Ashton et al.
2000;Booketal.2015;Booketal.2016; Lee and Ashton
2012). Previous studies using the HEXACO have found that
lower levels of Honesty-Humility were the only predictor of
adolescent bullying at the multivariate level, but that lower
degrees of Agreeableness (after controlling for reactive ag-
gression) and lower levels of Emotionality were also corre-
lates at the univariate level (Book et al. 2012; Farrell et al.
2014). These findings indicate that antisocial personality traits
are important in determining whether adolescents engage in
bullying. That is, individuals lower in Honesty-Humility may
be inclined to exploit others for personal gain and use bullying
as a strategy for doing so. Individuals lower in Emotionality
may feel little empathy, increasing the willingness to bully
others to get what they want. Finally, individuals lower in
Agreeableness may be reactive and easily angered, making
bullying a likely retaliatory response to perceived mistreat-
ment. Taken together, shared personality traits may promote
individuals using bullyingas a strategy to facilitate intrasexual
competition and intersexual selection, in order to gain sexual
opportunities (Volk et al. 2014). Moreover, personality may
also directly influence engagement in sexual behavior inde-
pendent of bullying.
Personality and Sexual Behavior
Sexual behavior during adolescence varies due to a num-
ber of individual differences, such as gender, age, physi-
cal appearance, and popularity (Zimmer-Gembeck et al.
2001). We want to focus on another category of individual
differences that may affect adolescent sexual behavior:
personality. Personality appears to be associated directly
with the overall willingness of individuals to engage in
Evolutionary Psychological Science
sexual behavior (Jonason et al. 2009), beyond mecha-
nisms involving bullying. Lower levels of Honesty-
Humility are characterized by the tendency to exploit
and manipulate others for personal gain (Ashton and Lee
2007). Not surprisingly, in light of these defining charac-
teristics, Honesty-Humility predicts higher involvement in
short-term mating behavior, including fast life-history
strategies that focus on immediate rewards and short-
term mating opportunities (Lee et al. 2013; Jonason
et al. 2010), short-term mating orientation (Manson
2015), lower relationship exclusivity (i.e., more likely to
cheat on a partner), and an unrestricted sociosexual orien-
tation toward engagement in casual sex (Bourdage et al.
2007). As a result, individuals lower in Honesty-Humility
are unlikely to find themselves in long-term relationships
that require reciprocity (Foster et al. 2006), since others
view their lack of commitment as an undesirable trait in a
long-term mating partner (Jonason et al. 2009). Thus,
having an exploitative or opportunistic disposition may
help in securing short-term relationships, including sexual
partners (Jonason et al. 2009). However, while the ex-
ploitative tendencies of those lower in Honesty-Humility
is not found in the lower poles of both Emotionality (i.e.,
lacking empathy) and Agreeableness (i.e., reactive anger;
Ashton and Lee 2007), the antisocial tendencies associat-
ed with these two HEXACO factors may still help to gain
sexual access to mates.
Individuals with lower degrees of Emotionality are
characterized by a tendency to feel little empathy and
attachment toward others (Ashton and Lee 2007).
Therefore, it is not surprising that people who are lower
in Emotionality adopt short-term mating strategies, in-
cluding variants of promiscuity and infidelity (Lee et al.
2013;Manson2015). These individuals are able to be-
have in sexually opportunistic ways, such as having
extra-dyadic affairs without being inhibited by the guilt
of betraying their partner (Shimberg et al. 2016).
Difficulties in the ability to experience empathy is associ-
ated with characteristics such as exploitativeness and en-
titlement (Watson and Morris 1991), with individuals
possessing these traits being more likely to ignore the
feelings of others, or even their own emotional connec-
tions with others, when engaging in sexual behavior
(Marshall et al. 1995; Wheeler et al. 2002). In addition,
individuals lower in Emotionality may also be more will-
ing to engage in risky sexual behaviors (e.g., casual and
unprotected sex) given that Emotionality is negatively as-
sociated with sensation seeking and linked to a lack of
anxiety (de Vries et al. 2009). High sensation seekers
are more likely to engage in sexual risk taking because
of the thrill and lack of fear associated with having mul-
tiple sexual partners (Hoyle et al. 2000). Consistent with
this notion, the fear, dependence, and sentimentality facets
of Emotionality were inversely related to a short-term
mating orientation, suggesting a predisposition to reckless
and independent fast life-history strategies (Manson
2015). Thus, it is reasonable to expect that individuals
lower in Emotionality may report more sexual behavior.
Lower Agreeableness is characterized by the tendency to
be reactive, unforgiving, and impatient (Ashton and Lee
2007). Similar to Emotionality, Agreeableness does not em-
body an exploitative nature but still contains antisocial tenden-
cies that may help secure sexual benefits. The low end of both
HEXACO and Big Five Agreeableness characterizes a diffi-
culty getting along with others (Ashton et al. 2014), which
may explain why both variants of Agreeableness were previ-
ously related to short-term mating (Lee et al. 2013;Schmitt
and Shackelford 2008). For example, lower Agreeableness is
linked to conflict in long-term relationships (Buss 1991).
Individuals lower in Agreeableness may find it especially dif-
ficult to be in a long-term relationship because they do not
get along with their partner (Schmitt 2005). Therefore, being
quick to anger may contribute to having more short-term sex-
ual partners. In sum, the data in the literature suggests that
antisocial traits may translate into having more sexual partners
through antisocial behavior such as bullying, but these traits
can also be directly related to having more sexual partners
above and beyond bullying (see Table 1for a summary of
previous findings).
Thus, while some personality traits may be adaptive to
the extent that they relate to improved mating success, it is
unclear if this is only a direct relationship with those traits
and/or if this may be because individuals with antisocial
tendencies indirectly use bullying as a strategy for
obtaining sexual partners. Although previous research has
already explored direct links between personality and sex-
ual behavior (discussed above), we also wanted to know
indirect mechanisms (such as bullying) through which ad-
olescents engage in more sexual behavior. To test the ve-
racity of either of these options, we examined the direct
effects of the HEXACO personality traits, as well as any
potential indirect effects, by bullying behaviors in samples
of older and younger adolescents. As a result, we predicted
that only the antisocial traits, that is, lower levels of
Honesty-Humility, Emotionality, and Agreeableness,
would have significant indirect effects on the number of
sexual partners through bullying perpetration. We also ex-
pected that individuals with antisocial characteristics may
have more sexual opportunities because of their willing-
ness to use effective behaviors such as bullying (indirect
effects), and that these same characteristics might also be
directly associated with achieving mating success indepen-
dent of bullying (direct effects; see Table 1for a summary
of predictions). We used two independent samples to test
these predictions to determine if converging evidence
existed for the reproductive function of bullying at a
Evolutionary Psychological Science
developmental period when sexual activity begins (youn-
ger adolescence) and at a developmental period when sex-
ual activity is more prevalent (older adolescence).
Method
Participants
Study 1: Older Adolescents The sample of older adolescents
comprised of first-year undergraduate students (N= 144; 111
women, M
age
= 18.32, SD
age
= 0.63), who were recruited
through campus posters and an online subject pool at a uni-
versity in southern Ontario. The subject pool gathers partici-
pants from psychology courses that consist of mostly women.
Thus, class composition explains why there were a smaller
number of men. Participants were Caucasian (75.2%), Asian
(6.2%), Middle-Eastern (2.8%), and African-Canadian
(5.5%). Participants also reported Otherfor ethnicity
(9.0%), or did not report any ethnicities (1.4%). The majority
of participants reported their familys socio-economic status
(SES) to be about the same(60.0%) in wealth as the average
Canadian, whereas fewer reported more wealthy(22.1%) or
less wealthy(17.8%). The remaining participants did not
report any family SES (0.1%).
Study 2: Younger Adolescents Younger adolescents (N=
396; 230 girls, M
age
=14.64,SD = 1.52) were recruited from
extracurricular clubs, sports teams, and youth organizations
southern Ontario. The ethnicity of the participants included
Caucasian (73.7%), Asian (6.1%), African-Canadian (1.0%),
Native Canadian (0.5%), and mixed (4.3%). Participants also
reported other for ethnicity (4.8%), and remaining participants
did not report any ethnicities (9.6%). The majority of partici-
pants reported their familys SES to be about the same
(64.6%) in wealth as the average Canadian, whereas fewer
reported more wealthy (22.8%) or less wealthy (12.1.%).
The remaining participants did not report any family SES
(0.5%).
Measures
Personality Older adolescents completed the 100-item
HEXACO Personality Inventory-Revised self-report, while
younger adolescents completed the 60-item version (Lee and
Ashton 2004). Both versions consist of the same six factors
and the same four facets within each factor. However, the
items of the 60-item version (each factor contains 10 items)
are a subset of the items of the 100-item version (each factor
contains 16 items). Scores on the personality dimensions are
each comprised of an average of four subscales, which are
computed by averaging the items that correspond to each sub-
scale (Lee and Ashton 2004). Sample items include If I want
something from a person I dislike, I will act very nicely toward
that person in order to get itfor Honesty-Humility, Iworrya
lot less than most people dofor Emotionality, I enjoy having
lots of people around to talk withfor Extraversion, Irarely
hold a grudge, even against people who have badly wronged
mefor Agreeableness, I often check my work over repeat-
edly to find any mistakesfor Conscientiousness, and People
Tabl e 1 Summary of previous findings on the links among personality, bullying, and sexual behavior
Personality
factors
Previous studies on bullying Previous studies on sexual success Predictions
Honesty-Humility Lower Honesty-Humility associated
with bullying perpetration at the
multivariate level (Book et al. 2012)
Lower Honesty-Humility related to
physical, racial, verbal, social, and
sexual subtypes of bullying (Farrell
et al. 2014)
Honesty-Humility negatively related to
relationship exclusivity (Bourdage et al. 2007)
Honesty-Humility predicts a faster life-history
strategy (Lee et al. 2013), short-term mating
orientation (Manson 2015), and unrestricted
sociosexuality (i.e., the willingness to engage
in casual sex without emotional attachment;
Bourdage et al. 2007).
Direct effect on number of sexual
partners and an indirect effect on
number of sexual partners through
bullying
Emotionality Lower Emotionality associated with
bullying perpetration at the univariate
level (Book et al. 2012)
Lower Emotionality related to racial
bullying (Farrell et al. 2014)
Emotionality inversely related to short-term
mating strategies, including variants of
promiscuity and infidelity (Lee et al. 2013;
Manson 2015)
Direct effect on number of sexual
partners and an indirect effect on
number of sexual partners through
bullying
Agreeableness Lower Agreeableness associated with
bullying when controlling for reactive
aggression (Book et al. 2012)
Lower Agreeableness related to
physical, racial, and verbal subtypes
of bullying (Farrell et al. 2014)
Agreeableness negatively related to a
short-term mating orientation
(Manson 2015)
Direct effect on number of sexual
partners and an indirect effect on
number of sexual partners through
bullying
Evolutionary Psychological Science
have often told me that I have a good imaginationfor
Openness to Experience. The rest of the items can be found
at www.hexaco.org (Lee and Ashton 2009). The reliability
coefficients for older adolescents for each of the six
HEXACO traits were α= 0.81, 0.85, 0.82, 0.80, 0.79, and 0.
78, respectively. The reliability coefficients for younger ado-
lescents for each of the six HEXACO traits were α=0.67,0.
75, 0.80, 0.68, 0.75, and 0.71, respectively. Items were rated
on a five-point scale (1 = strongly disagree and 5 = strongly
agree).
Bullying Participants completed the Bullying Questionnaire
that assessed the frequency of their involvement in bullying in
the last school term (adapted from Volk and Lagzdins 2009).
For both samples, two items measuring verbal and social
subtypes were averaged (older sample: r= .39; younger sam-
ple: r= .41). Verbal and social forms were used as previous
studies demonstrated these subtypes peak at various ages dur-
ing early to late adolescence for both men and women (e.g.,
Larochette et al. 2010; Monks et al. 2009;Pontzer2010; Volk
et al. 2006;Wangetal.2012). The items included In school,
how often have you threatened, yelled at, or verbally insulted
someone much weaker or less popular last term?and In
school, how often have you spread rumors, mean lies, or ac-
tively excluded someone much weaker or less popular last
term?Items were rated on a five-point scale (1 = that has
not happened and 5 = several times a week).
Sexual Partners To measure sexual behavior in both samples,
participants were asked Howmanysexualpartnershaveyou
had a voluntary sexual experience with (i.e., more than kissing
or making out) since the age of 12?Our measure of sexual
behavior represents a contemporary correlate of reproductive
success, which is ultimately measured by the number of viable
offspring. Given the low frequency of sexual partners in the
younger sample, we dichotomized sexual partners into yes
(i.e., has one or more sexual partners) and no (i.e., has no
sexual partners). We dichotomized in both samples for
consistency.
Procedure
Study 1: Older Adolescents In the lab, participants were
asked to sign a consent form and complete the questionnaires.
Questionnaires were placed in random order in order to pre-
vent order effects. After completing the questionnaires, partic-
ipants were debriefed and received either 1.0 credit as part of
the introductory psychology course or $10. The study re-
ceived clearance from a university research ethics board.
Study 2: Younger Adolescents Supervisors of extracurricular
clubs, sports teams, and youth organizations were contacted
about having adolescents participate in this study. Once
consent was obtained from these supervisors, adolescents
were recruited and told that this study was about adolescent
peer relationships. Adolescents interested in participating re-
ceived an envelope containing a parental consent form, an
assent form, and a unique identification number to access
the study online. Questionnaires were placed in random order
to prevent order effects. Participants were notified that both
the consent and assent forms needed to be signed and returned
in order for the completed questionnaire to be used in the
study. The completed forms were collected at the same loca-
tions they were initially distributed in the subsequent weeks.
When participants gave back the envelopes, they were com-
pensated $15 for their time.
Results
Preliminary Analyses
Missing Data Preliminary analyses were conducted using
SPSS 24. All variables had less than 6% missing data with
the exception of sexual partners (younger sample = 12.6%,
older sample= 9.7%). However, variables with missing data
did not change the overall pattern of results in either sample as
indicated by Littles MCAR test (older adolescents: χ
2
(26) =
35.28, p= .11; younger adolescents: χ
2
(108) = 106.74,
p= .51). All estimations used the pairwise-present analysis,
which allows for all cases to be used if they are pairwise-
present (Asparouhov and Muthén 2010).
Assumptions All variables met the univariate assumptions of
normality. However, bullying was positively skewed with out-
liers in the younger sample. Considering thatantisocial behav-
iors such as bullying tend to be low in frequency, positive
skew and outliers were expected. Extreme values were
winsorized (Field 2013), which improved the pattern of as-
sumptions. All assumptions of multivariate normality were
met with the exception of homoscedasticity. However,
bootstrapping with bias-corrected confidence intervals using
10,000 samples was used in the primary analyses to account
for non-normality (Shrout and Bolger 2002).
Correlations Significant correlations ranged from small to
moderate in size (Table 2). Number of sexual partners was
significantly positively correlated with bullying and negative-
ly correlated with Honesty-Humility in both samples.
Additionally in the older adolescent sample, sexual partners
were also positively correlated with Extraversion. In the youn-
ger adolescent sample, number of sexual partners was also
correlated with being older, Agreeableness, and
Conscientiousness. In both samples, bullying was negatively
correlated with Honesty-Humility, Agreeableness, and
Conscientiousness.
Evolutionary Psychological Science
Primary Analyses
Two separate path analysis models were investigated using
MPlus version 7.4 (Muthén & Muthén, 1998-2017) to test
for significant direct effects of the HEXACO traits on the
number of sexual partners and the indirect effects of the traits
through bullying perpetration simultaneously. The first path
analysis was conducted with the older adolescent sample, and
the second analysis was conducted with the younger adoles-
cent sample. Given that personality has previously been asso-
ciated with sexual outcomes, we wanted to differentiate be-
tween direct and indirect effects. We were not able to compare
genders in the older sample because of the smaller number of
male participants. However, we tested for a gender modera-
tion in the younger sample by comparing a model with
constrained paths to a model with unconstrained paths and
found no significant difference χ
2diff
(15) = 16.17, p> .05.
Therefore, to be consistent, we controlled for gender and age
effects in both path analyses. Therefore, all paths were esti-
mated and all exogenous variables were allowed to covary
resulting in fully saturated models with uninformative fit in-
dices (Kline 2016; Pearl 2012). Parameters were estimated
using weighted least squares means and variance adjusted
estimation (WLSMV) to account for the continuous and di-
chotomous dependent variables. To test for indirect effects,
95% bias-corrected confidence intervals with 10,000
bootstrapped samples were estimated, and any confidence in-
terval that did not cross over zero was considered a significant
indirect effect (Shrout and Bolger 2002).
Study 1: Older Adolescents Direct path coefficients from the
independent variables and bullying are in Table 3and Fig. 1.
Higher Extraversion and higher bullying perpetration signifi-
cantly predicted having had sex. In addition, lower Honesty-
Humility and lower Agreeableness significantly predicted
higher bullying perpetration. There was a significant indirect
effect of lower Honesty-Humility (B=0.17, SE =0.10,β=
0.09, 95% CI [0.431, 0.019]), and lower Agreeableness
(B=0.16, SE = 0.10, β=0.08, 95% CI [-0.417,
0.019]) on having had sex through higher bullying.
Study 2: Younger Adolescents Direct path coefficients from
the independent variables and bullying are noted in Table 3
and Fig. 1. Being older, lower Honesty-Humility and higher
bullying significantly predicted having had sex. In addition,
lower Honesty-Humility and lower Conscientiousness also
significantly predicted higher bullying perpetration. There
was also a significant indirect effect of lower Honesty-
Humility (B=0.05, SE = 0.03, β=0.03, 95% CI [
0.112, 0.003]), lower Conscientiousness (B=0.03, SE =
0.02, β=0.01, 95% CI [0.083, 0.002]), on having sex-
ual partners through bullying.
Discussion
We investigated the indirect effects of the HEXACO person-
ality traits on the number of sexual partners through bullying
perpetration and also the direct effects of these traits on the
Tabl e 2 Correlations, means, and standard deviations for all study variables for older and younger adolescents
M(SD)
c
12345678910M(SD)
d
1. Age 14.64(1.52) 0.03 0.07 0.01 0.05 0.01 0.01 0.09 0.09 0.12 18.32(0.63)
2. Gen
a
0.05 0.35*** 0.38*** 0.11 0.02 0.09 0.28*** 0.08 0.20*
3. H 3.43(0.56) 0.17*** 0.14** 0.18* 0.07 0.45*** 0.28*** 0.03 0.39*** 0.24** 3.32(0.56)
4. E 3.23(0.60) 0.05 0.32*** 0.15** 0.15 0.08 0.13 0.17* 0.04 0.12 3.52(0.57)
5. X 3.33(0.63) 0.12* 0.06 0.18*** 0.11* 0.15 0.04 0.13 0.12 0.26** 3.32(0.60)
6. A 3.24(0.53) 0.17*** 0.08 0.36*** 0.05 0.33*** 0.16 0.06 0.39*** 0.03 2.98(0.52)
7. C 3.52(0.57) 0.11* 0.21*** 0.38*** 0.18*** 0.25*** 0.26*** 0.12 0.17* 0.01 3.39(0.54)
8. O 3.06(0.60) 0.11* 0.14** 0.10 0.18*** 0.01 0.06 0.18*** 0.03 0.03 2.95(0.58)
9. Bully 1.17(0.34) 0.04 0.04 0.26*** 0.00 0.08 0.15** 0.21*** 0.03 0.19* 1.45(0.48)
10. Sex
b
0.62(1.43) 0.45*** 0.05 0.23*** 0.04 0.04 0.16** 0.17** 0.01 0.18** 3.00(3.00)
N396 144
Note. Top half represents correlations for older adolescents; Bottom half represents correlations for younger adolescents; Honesty-Humility
Gen gender, Eemotionality, Xextraversion, Aagreeableness, Cconscientiousness, Oopenness to experience, Sex sexual partners
*p<.05; **p<.01;***p< .001
a
Gender coded as 1 = Boy/ Man, 2 = Girl/ Woman
b
Sexual partners coded as 0 = no sexual partners, 1 = yes sexual partners
c
Column for younger adolescents
d
Column for older adolescents
Evolutionary Psychological Science
number of sexual partners for samples of older and younger
adolescents. Results offered mix support for our hypotheses
pertaining to indirect effects. To begin with, Honesty-
Humility was the only antisocial trait that had an indirect
effect on number of sexual partners through bullying for both
samples. Our finding is in line with previous studies using the
HEXACO (e.g., Book et al. 2015; Manson 2015) and the
Dark Triad (e.g., Jonason et al. 2009) that suggest that lower
levels of Honesty-Humility are associated with an exploitative
social strategy. Thus, it is not surprising that both older and
younger adolescents lower in Honesty-Humility are willing
and able to engage in bullying to improve reproductive suc-
cess. Consistent with the present finding, lower degrees of
Honesty-Humility have been linked in previous research with
bullying (e.g., Book et al. 2012; Farrell et al. 2014), which in
turn has been linked to more mating partners (e.g., Dane et al.
2017;Volketal.2015). Our significant indirect effects suggest
that exploitative adolescents may have more sexual partners if
they are able to strategically use an exploitative behavior like
bullying to target weaker individuals. Thus, adolescents lower
in Honesty-Humility may use bullying to display traits such as
strength and dominance that attract the opposite sex (an inter-
sexual strategy), while also use bullying to derogate rivals to
reduce their appeal or threaten rivals into withdrawing from
intrasexual competition in order to gain access to sexual part-
ners. Therefore, individuals lower in Honesty-Humility are
interested in, and capable of, pursuing more sexual partners
through bullying when compared to others.
Similar to Honesty-Humility, Agreeableness had a signifi-
cant indirect effect on number of sexual partners through bul-
lying for older adolescents. These results are in line with previ-
ous findings suggesting that lower Agreeableness is a signifi-
cant correlate of bullying, (e.g., Book et al. 2012; Farrell et al.
2014), and that aggressive behaviors such as bullying improve
access to sexual partners (Dane et al. 2017;Volketal.2015).
Although provoked, impulsive reactive aggression is not con-
sistent with some definitions of bullying (Volk et al. 2014),
bullying can function as form of revenge (Frey et al. 2015;
Marsee et al. 2011) that initially begins with provocation, which
may therefore be more easily elicited in individuals low in
Tabl e 3 Direct paths between
HEXACO personality, bullying,
and sexual partners for older and
younger adolescents
Bullying Sexual Partners
Vari abl es B(SE)β(SE)B(SE)β(SE)
Older adolescents
Age 0.09(0.05) 0.11(0.07) 0.30(0.19) 0.19(0.12)
Gender
a
0.04(0.11) 0.03(0.10) 0.83(0.61) 0.35(0.26)
Honesty-Humility 0.24(0.08)** 0.28(0.09)** 0.30(0.30) 0.16(0.17)
Emotionality 0.03(0.07) 0.03(0.09) 0.02(0.27) 0.01(0.15)
Extraversion 0.09(0.06) 0.11(0.08) 0.59(0.20)** 0.35(0.12)**
Agreeableness 0.23(0.09)** 0.25(0.09)** 0.22(0.30) 0.11(0.16)
Conscientiousness 0.04(0.06) 0.05(0.07) 0.21 (0.29) 0.11(0.15)
Openness 0.01(0.07) 0.01(0.08) 0.33(0.26) 0.19(0.15)
Bullying ––0.69(0.33)* 0.34(0.16)*
R
2
0.24 0.46
N144
Younger adolescents
Age 0.00(0.01) 0.01(0.05) 0.35(0.04)*** 0.53(0.06)***
Gender
b
0.00(0.04) 0.00(0.05) 0.03(0.14) 0.01(0.07)
Honesty-Humility 0.12(0.03)*** 0.20(0.05)*** 0.27(0.13)* 0.15(0.07)*
Emotionality 0.03(0.03) 0.05(0.05) 0.04(0.12) 0.02(0.07)
Extraversion 0.00(0.03) 0.01(0.05) 0.15(0.11) 0.10(0.07)
Agreeableness 0.03(0.04) 0.04(0.06) 0.13(0.14) 0.07(0.07)
Conscientiousness 0.08(0.03)** 0.13(0.05)** 0.16(0.12) 0.09(0.07)
Openness 0.00(0.03) 0.00(0.05) 0.07(0.11) 0.04(0.07)
Bullying ––0.38(0.19)* 0.13(0.07)*
R
2
0.09 0.40
N396
*p< .05; **p<.01; ***p<.001
a
Gender coded as 1 = man, 2 = woman
b
Gender coded as 1 = boy, 2 = girl
Evolutionary Psychological Science
Agreeableness, who are more reactive and easily angered.
Thus, bullying that functions as provoked but planned revenge
against intrasexual competitors for mates may enable bullies to
dominate and intimidate weaker rivals, thereby deterring rivals
fromcompetingwiththem(Volketal.2014).
Interestingly, there was no indirecteffectfor Agreeableness
on number of sexual partners through bullying for younger
adolescents. While it is possible that younger adolescents are
less tolerant of impatient and angry behavior than older ado-
lescents, we believe the most likely explanation for the age
difference may be related to sexual opportunities. Considering
that the prevalence of sexual behavior increases during late
adolescence (Claxton and van Dulmen 2013), older adoles-
cents likely have more sexual opportunities than do younger
adolescents. Older adolescents may need to mate guard as
they have more sexual resources to lose (indirect effect for
Agreeableness), whereas for younger adolescents, mate
guarding may not be necessary because they are likely to have
fewer or no sexual resources (lack of direct and indirect effects
for Agreeableness). Therefore, individuals in this age group,
with predisposing personality traits, are more likely to use
bullying as a strategy to facilitate intrasexual competition or
intersexual selection, rather than for some other purpose.
Unexpectedly, there was no significant indirect effect for
Emotionality on sexual partners through bullying. In retro-
spect, this is not too surprising considering the lack of a rela-
tionship between Emotionality and bullying in previous re-
search (e.g., Book et al. 2012). This fits with several current
theories that suggest a lesser role of empathy in predicting
antisocial behaviors (e.g., Endresen and Olweus 2002;
Jolliffe and Farrington 2004;Jordanetal.2016; Warden and
Mackinnon 2003). Therefore, adolescents lower in
Emotionality may be unlikely to use bullying as a strategy
for reproductive opportunities.
Although we did not predict this indirect effect for other
HEXACO factors, we found that higher Extraversion directly
Age
Sexual PartnersBullying
-.28**
Gender a
Agreeableness
Emotionality
Honesty-Humility
Extraversion
Conscientiousness
Openness
.34*
-.25**
.35**
Age
Sexual Partners
Bullying
-.20***
Gendera
Agreeableness
Emotionality
Honesty-Humility
Extraversion
Conscientiousness
Openness
.13*
-.13**
.53***
-.25*
Fig. 1 Significant direct and
indirect paths for personality,
bullying, and number of sexual
partners. Note. Top figure is for
older adolescents and bottom
figure is for younger adolescents.
All covariances and disturbances
were estimated but only
significant direct effects are
displayed for ease of presentation.
No line indicates no significant
path. Standardized path
coefficients are presented for
direct paths.
a
Gender coded as
1 = boy/man, 2 = girl/woman.
*p<.05; **p<.01;***p< .001
Evolutionary Psychological Science
and lower Conscientiousness indirectly through bullying were
associated with sexual partners for the older and younger sam-
ples, respectively. The latter results are consistent with previ-
ous findings suggesting that lower Conscientiousness is a sig-
nificant predictor of bullying, (e.g., Farrell et al. 2014), which
in turn improves access to sexual partners (Dane et al. 2017;
Volk et al. 2015). Individuals who are lower in
Conscientiousness lack behavioral inhibition, which may in-
crease the likelihood of bullying others (Coolidge et al. 2004),
but is also linked with riskier sexual behavior in adolescents
(Dir et al. 2014). However, behavioral inhibition increases
with age (Steinberg 2004), which may explain why a signifi-
cant indirect effect for Conscientiousness was found for youn-
ger but not older adolescents. In addition, lower
Conscientiousness did not contribute directly to sexual part-
ners in either sample, which indicates that this personality trait
may contribute to gaining sexual opportunities mainly
through the mechanism of bullying.
In contrast, older individuals who are higher in
Extraversion may have positive social characteristics attract
sexual partners. For instance, individuals higher in
Extraversion tend to be more sociable, socially dominant,
and assertive, which are characteristics that others may find
attractive and may make it easier to engage in sexual behavior
(Miller et al. 2004). Our finding that higher Extraversion is
associated with reproductive partners is consistent with previ-
ous research (e.g., Heaven et al. 2000;Nettle2005). The lack
of an effect among younger adolescents suggests they might
be less aware/concerned with the onset of new social behav-
iors like dating compared to older adolescents when sexual
activity is more prevalent (Grello et al. 2003). For younger
adolescents, sexual behavior may be a riskier, less normative
behavior (Indirect effect of Conscientiousness on sexual part-
ners). However, for older adolescents, sexual behavior be-
comes normative so it depends less on being risky or generally
reckless and more on being sociable and assertive. In sum, our
results suggest that several personality traits may be linked
with sexual partners through bullying. These data support
our contention that bullying may be an effective behavior for
individuals who possess appropriate personality traits.
However, the lack of significant direct effects of personality
on sexual partners did not support our hypotheses.
Honesty-Humility was the only antisocial trait that directly
predicted an increased number of sexual partners in the youn-
ger adolescent sample. Younger adolescents lower in
Honesty-Humility may therefore strategically manipulate
others in a variety of ways to obtain more sexual partners.
Our finding is in line with previous studies using the
HEXACO (e.g., Book et al. 2015) and the Dark Triad (e.g.,
Jonason et al. 2009) that suggest that lower Honesty-Humility
is associated with an increased mating effort. Given that fast
life-history strategies often involve increased short-term mat-
ing effort (Ellis et al. 2012), it is not surprising that bullying,
itself a typically short-term antisocial strategy (Volk et al.
2014), partly explained the association between Honesty-
Humility and number of sexual partners. Individuals who
are lower in Honesty-Humility therefore appear to be flexible
in their use of strategies for obtaining more mates. Sometimes,
they choose bullying as their strategy (indirect effects) while
other times, they engage in other manipulative strategies (e.g.,
lying to a potential partner; direct effects). However, no direct
effect was found for older adolescents. Older adolescents may
first use their prosocial skills (direct effect of Extraversion) to
attract sexual partners given the more normative nature of
sexual behavior among older (versus younger) adolescents.
If these prosocial attempts are unsuccessful, older adolescents
could then rely on other, more exploitative behaviors such as
bullying (indirect effect of Honesty-Humility) to achieve their
sexual goals.
In contrast to Honesty-Humility, there was no significant
direct effect of Agreeableness on number of sexual partners
for both older and younger adolescents. This finding is incon-
sistent with previous research, which has found lower
Agreeableness to be associated with a short-term mating ori-
entation, an indicator of a fast life-history strategy and a pre-
dictor of increased mating success (Manson 2015). Although
the studies mentioned above highlight the ways in which low-
er degrees of Agreeableness may contribute to more sexual
partners, those studies measured short-term mating attitudes
or orientations instead of measuring number of sexual part-
ners. Individuals who are lower in Agreeableness may have a
difficult time securing sexual partners due to some of the traits
found in the lower pole of Agreeableness such as being stub-
born and easily angered. As a result, these individuals may be
difficult to get along with and avoided by potential mating
partners (Buss 1991; Schmitt 2005). Instead, individuals
who are lower in Agreeableness may need to rely on strategic
behaviors like bullying to have more sexual opportunities.
Finally, there was also a lack of a direct effect for
Emotionality on sexual partners for both samples.
Although previous studies found that this trait was nega-
tively associated with short-term mating strategies (e.g.,
Manson 2015), including more permissive attitudes re-
garding infidelity (Shimberg et al. 2016), the lack of a
significant direct effect may be attributable to individuals
who are emotionally detached or uncaring, who may be
perceived by others as being indifferent or uninterested in
engaging in any sexual behavior. As a result, these individ-
uals may not be desired as mating partners, and thus may
have fewer sexual opportunities. Taken together, Honesty-
Humility and Agreeableness may be associated with hav-
ing more sexual partners by allowing adolescents more
willing and able to use bullying as a strategy to facilitate
intrasexual competition and intersexual selection, as op-
posed to being a mechanism leading directly to engage-
ment with more sexual partners.
Evolutionary Psychological Science
Limitations and Future Directions for Research
There are several limitations to note in our study. First,
self-report measures were used, which may be susceptible
to social desirability bias. Self-report data on bullying and
sexual behavior can be underreported (and/or exaggerated
in the latter; Hazler et al. 2006;Morrison-Beedyetal.
2006). Similarly, undesirable personality traits may also
be influenced by social desirability bias (Ashton et al.
2014). However, previous studies have found self-report
data on adolescent bullying (Book et al. 2012), sexual ac-
tivity (Brener et al. 2003), and the HEXACO (Ashton et al.
2014) are valid under conditions of confidentiality. Next,
because the study was cross-sectional and all variables
were measured concurrently, we do not know the temporal
or causal order. While we based the order of our direct and
indirect effects on theory and prior research, it is possible
that sexual partners can be a cause and/or outcome of bul-
lying. Similarly, lower Honesty-Humility may precede or
follow bullying. Future longitudinal studies may help de-
termine the developmental sequence. Third, our under-
graduate sample had a smaller number of men, lending
some caution to the generalizability of our results to older
adolescent boys. Furthermore, our older adolescent sample
was collected from a university participant pool, whereas
our younger adolescent sample was collected from the
community. Therefore, besides age, these samples may dif-
fer on various characteristics that were not measured nor
controlled for in the study. Another limitation was that
being a victim of bullying was not measured. Although
bullying perpetration may be adaptive for purebullies,
it may be maladaptive for bully-victims(Volk et al.
2012). We were not able to distinguish between pure
bullies and bully-victims in either sample. Our study
lacked the statistical power to ideally test between bullies
and bully-victims. While we do not have strong predictions
about the different roles of personality for bullies versus
bully-victims, a host of differences between the two sug-
gest that personality could well play a different role be-
tween the two (e.g., perhaps Honesty-Humility matters
more for bullies). We therefore strongly encourage future
studies that are able to directly test whether personality
plays a different role for bullies versus bully-victims. In
addition, our measure of sexual behavior is not a direct
indicator of reproductive success. In the ancestral past,
number of viable offspring was an indicator of reproduc-
tive success, but now, number of sexual partners may be
considered a contemporary indicator of reproductive suc-
cess (Kanazawa 2003). Finally, if Honesty-Humility,
Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness are
some of the driving forces behind achieving sexual behav-
ior, it may be beneficial in future research to investigate
under what environmental contexts it is adaptive for
individuals with these personality traits to indirectly gain
access to sexual opportunities.
While we acknowledge these limitations, the results of our
study nevertheless suggest that personality can have important
direct and indirect effects on both bullying and sexual behav-
iors. Some adolescents may directly obtain more mating suc-
cess but may also employ bullying as an effective strategy to
improve mating success. Our results suggest that both re-
search and intervention efforts with older and younger adoles-
cents need to recognize and respond to the relationships be-
tween personality, sex, and bullying. Meta-analyses on anti-
bullying programs suggest that while interventions may be
effective for younger children, they are less effective for ado-
lescents (Yeager et al. 2015). The ineffectiveness of interven-
tions may be attributed to a lack of consideration for the social
and sexual developmental changes and motivations related to
bullying for adolescents. Indeed, many interventions do not
explicitly address possible sexual competition as a goal of
bullying (Ellis et al. 2015). Given that adolescence is charac-
terized both by sexual maturation and the onset of sexual
behavior, this is a potentially crucial oversight (Yeager et al.
2015). By targeting the reproductive motivations of bullies,
interventions may want to focus on alternative, but equally
effective, prosocial behaviors (e.g., school jobs program that
provide bullies with meaningful roles and responsibilities) that
still work with, rather than against, exploitative personality
traits to allow adolescents to achieve sexual benefits without
harming others (Ellis et al. 2015). In sum, when we consider
bullying as an effective behavior, we must consider not only
the behavior but the personality of the perpetrator. Bullying
may result in more sex, but only for those who possess the
personality traits that motivate them to take advantage of their
exploitation.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest The authors declare that they have no conflict of
interest.
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Evolutionary Psychological Science
... While there has been less research on personality traits and mating on a perceptual level, some of the HEXACO traits have been related to short-term mating intent and behavior that may also be associated with mating appeal given the pattern of results with parenting efforts. Specifically, tendencies to be more exploitative and status-seeking (lower honesty-humility; Lee & Ashton, 2004), impulsive and reckless (lower conscientiousness; Lee & Ashton, 2004), and having less empathy (lower emotionality; Lee & Ashton, 2004) have been associated with short-term mating intent and behavior Provenzano et al., 2018;Strouts et al., 2017). It is worth noting that similar traits in other personality models have also been associated with short-term mating tendencies in psychopaths (Jonason, et al., 2009). ...
... Lower honesty-humility, lower conscientiousness, higher extraversion, higher openness to experience, and men were related to higher mating appeal and engagement. Previous studies have found associations between lower honesty-humility and the desire and engagement in short-term mating (Ashton & Lee, 2007;Book et al., 2015;Dir et al., 2014;Manson, 2015;Mededovi c et al., 2018;Provenzano et al., 2018). As per these selfish/entitled tendencies, individuals lower on honesty-humility may feel entitled to many mates. ...
... As per these selfish/entitled tendencies, individuals lower on honesty-humility may feel entitled to many mates. Additionally, a higher tendency toward sensation seeking and impulsivity in individuals lower in conscientiousness is shown to be one of the strongest predictors of short-term mating desires and behavior (Ashton & Lee, 2007;Hoyle et al., 2000;Provenzano et al., 2018). Thus, higher levels of thrill/sensation seeking could motivate individuals lower in conscientiousness to enjoy the idea of short-term mating, while the impulsiveness could help them to be successful in engaging in short-term mating. ...
Article
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Young adults have to make important fitness-related decisions regarding how they will invest their time and energy into parenting, mating, and somatic investments. Using an adaptive, evolutionary lens, we examined the role of personality traits on the appeal of, and engagement with, these 3 forms of investment. We also examined the potential indirect role of appeal in linking personality to engagement. We chose to study 516 young adults whose life stage coincides with compromises between these 3 forms of investment. Our data showed that certain HEXACO traits were uniquely associated with parenting (e.g., higher E, X, and lower C), mating (e.g., lower H, higher X, lower C, and higher O), or somatic (e.g., lower H, higher E, X, A, and C) appeal and engagement. Additionally, some traits that were associated with parenting engagement were also related to somatic appeal. In contrast, some traits that were associated with parenting engagement were inversely related to mating appeal and viceversa. Our study therefore depicts the flexibility of personality traits in their associations with investment decisions. This malleability in personality traits could allow for investment decisions that could lead to adaptive outcomes across different contexts.
... Antisocial personality traits (Volk et al., , 2015 and aggression (Arnocky & Vaillancourt, 2012;Lee et al., 2018) can promote mating effort and mating success in youth. For example, bullying among adolescents is associated with having more sex partners, which is explained by the expression of heightened antisocial personality characteristics (e.g., lower honesty-humility; Provenzano et al., 2018). Nonetheless, limited research has been devoted to studying psychopathy and mating behavior in non-referred adolescents. ...
... However, far fewer have used an evolutionary lens to study the lower-order factors of psychopathy, such as primary and secondary psychopathy, in relation to mating dynamics, particularly using longitudinal data with adolescents. It is also unclear what mechanism(s) account for the relation between more antisocial personality traits and mating behavior in youth (Provenzano et al., 2018). Delinquency may signal the possession of desirable qualities, including courage, bravery, and formidability in boys and a greater willingness to engage in sexual behavior in girls (Rebellon & Manasse, 2004), which might help to explain the heightened mating success of youth higher in psychopathic traits. ...
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Many have examined the desirability and mate competition tactics of adults higher on psychopathy using cross-sectional data, but few have studied the longitudinal associations between the lower-order factors of psychopathy (e.g., primary and secondary psychopathy) with indices of mating behavior in adolescents. More work is also needed to unravel how psychopathic youth outcompete rivals for mates. Delinquency has long been associated with dating and sexual behavior in adolescents, which may help to explain the competitive success of youth higher in psychopathic traits in vying for mates. We used cross-lagged panel modeling with three waves of data from a randomly drawn sample of 514 Canadian adolescents who provided annual self-reports of primary and secondary psychopathy, delinquency, and dating involvement from Grades 10 to 12 (15-18 years of age). Constructs were temporally stable. Secondary psychopathy and delinquency had positive within-time correlations with current dating status in Grade 10. A cross-lagged pathway from delinquency to dating involvement was supported from Grade 10 to 11, which replicated from Grade 11 to 12. However, this effect was specific to boys and not girls. An indirect effect also emerged whereby secondary psychopathy in Grade 10 increased the likelihood of being in a dating relationship in Grade 12 via heightened delinquency in Grade 11.
... Evidence that males classified as "fast" do, on average, speed up sexual activity is reflected in relatively early sexual debut, greater number of sexual partners, early first birth, and early marriage (Provenzano, et al., 2018;Xu, et al., 2018). Primary evidence for girls includes associations between ELA and early menarche (often defined as before age 11 or 12) along with higher rates of risky sexual behavior and earlier age of first sexual intercourse, first pregnancy, and first birth (Ellis & Del Giudice, 2019). ...
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High levels of stress are known to accelerate biological aging in susceptible individuals, often leading to a downward course of ill health and early death. This book-length review explores how and why. It is too long to expect anyone to read the whole thing, but it serves to keep track of my understandings and syntheses (as of May 2022) while delving into literatures on toxic stress, aging, life history, and evolutionary theory. A common theme in these literatures is the connection between early life adversity (ELA) and later ill health and early death. Just about the only evolutionary explanation to be found is that ELA signals infants and children to develop a “live fast, die young” strategy to beat the odds against reproduction in their harsh environments, but this siphons energy from bodily maintenance leading to ill health later in life. However, the “live fast, die young” model has been increasingly questioned based on both theory and research. Even if it is valid in some cases, it must be incomplete because it is based on individual level theoretical reasoning. But humans and most primates live in social groupings that can only exist because individuals give up some degree of autonomy as they cooperate and support each other, especially their close relatives. This review takes the very rare approach of asking what happens if we assess the mass of ELA research through the lenses of inclusive fitness and multilevel selection, which were both developed to explain the puzzle of altruism. Is it possible there’s an altruistic aspect to accelerated biological aging? We arrive at an answer of “yes” in a multilevel model of stress and aging which appears to be particularly unique in simultaneously accounting for (1) inclusive fitness as a universal design principle; (2) the existential imperative to control free-riders (a concept virtually absent in the aging and stress literatures); (3) allometric scaling with body size determining baseline species-specific metabolic rates and lifespans (as reflected in the same lifetime limit in number of heartbeats across all mammal species); (4) social status hierarchies as venues of social selection which imposes distresses and eustresses based on relative current social and prospective fitness values of individuals; and (5) the tendency of high social distress to accelerate biological aging while eustress can maintain or even decelerate it, thereby (6) channeling individuals along diverging reproductive arcs which advantage higher status individuals, but disadvantage and speed the altruistic exit-by-aging of lower status individuals along with identified predatory free-riders.
... With respect to reproductive outcomes, it is believed that male bullies are more dominant, display physical strength, and attain more material resources and female bullies are more attractivetraits that might contribute to a higher social status and greater opportunities for mating and reproduction (Volk et al., 2012). Indeed, conform to a frequently high position in the social hierarchy, bullies are more likely to date, have sex, and report a greater number of partners in adolescence and early adulthood (Dane, Marini, Volk, & Vaillancourt, 2017;Farrell & Vaillancourt, 2019;Provenzano, Dane, Farrell, Marini, & Volk, 2018;Volk, Dane, et al., 2015). These studies suggest that bullies appear to be at an advantage in an evolutionary sense as they are sexually attractive to a greater number of potential partners, which should increase their reproductive opportunities. ...
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Recent work on bullying perpetration includes the hypothesis that bullying carries an evolutionary advantage for perpetrators in terms of health and reproductive success. We tested this hypothesis in the National Child Development Study (n = 4998 male, n = 4831 female), British Cohort Study 1970 (n = 4261 male, n = 4432 female), and TRacking Adolescents’ Individual Lives Survey (n = 486 male, n = 521 female), where bullying was assessed in adolescence (NCDS, BCS70: age 16, TRAILS: age 14) and outcomes in adulthood. Partial support for the evolutionary hypothesis was found as bullies had more children in NCDS and engaged in sexual intercourse earlier in TRAILS. In contrast, bullies reported worse health in NCDS and BCS70.
... Additional cross-cultural evidence (see Ashton & Lee, 2020a), genetic evidence (Lewis & Bates, 2014), and behavioral evidence (e.g. Provenzano et al., 2018) all strongly support the HEXACO factors as representing an adaptive range of predispositions towards different forms of human behavior. For example, the high poles of Honesty-Humility, Emotionality, and Agreeableness would likely encourage cooperation with others, which has clear evolutionary advantages from the standpoint of reciprocal altruism (Hilbig et al., 2013). ...
... Given the large sex difference in sadism, the aggressive symbolism of penetration may be more than symbolic. Or perhaps testosterone underlies both variables (Provenzano, Dane, Farrell, Marini, & Volk, 2017;Welker, Lozoya, Campbell, Neumann, & Carré, 2014). ...
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To date, no studies have examined a range of structural models of the interpersonally aversive traits tapped by the Short Dark Tetrad (SD4; narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, sadism), in conjunction with their measurement invariance (males vs. females) and how the models each predict external correlates. Using a large sample of young adults ( N = 3,975), four latent variable models were compared in terms of fit, measurement invariance, and prediction of intrapersonal and interpersonal functioning. The models tested were as follows: (Model A) confirmatory factor analytic, (Model B) bifactor, (Model C) exploratory structural equation model, and (Model D) a reduced-item confirmatory factor analytic that maximized item information. All models accounted for item covariance with good precision, although differed in incremental fit. Strong invariance held for all models, and each accounted similarly for the external correlates, highlighting differential predictive effects of the SD4 factors. The results provide support for four theoretically distinct but overlapping dark personality domains.
... Accordingly, it is expected that this criterion will not be as prominent in relation to bullying exposure. Nevertheless, there are studies showing links between bullying perpetration and increased sexual behavior [i.e., number of partners, younger sexual debut; e.g., (91,117)], which is linked to higher social status (118). It seems reasonable to assume that some bullied children and adolescents will engage in sexual behavior as a way of elevating their standing in the peer group or to create protective alliances. ...
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Bullying victimization and trauma research traditions operate quite separately. Hence, it is unclear from the literature whether bullying victimization should be considered as a form of interpersonal trauma. We review studies that connect bullying victimization with symptoms of PTSD, and in doing so, demonstrate that a conceptual understanding of the consequences of childhood bullying needs to be framed within a developmental perspective. We discuss two potential diagnoses that ought to be considered in the context of bullying victimization: (1) developmental trauma disorder, which was suggested but not accepted as a new diagnosis in the DSM-5 and (2) complex post-traumatic stress disorder, which has been included in the ICD-11. Our conclusion is that these frameworks capture the complexity of the symptoms associated with bullying victimization better than PTSD. We encourage practitioners to understand how exposure to bullying interacts with development at different ages when addressing the consequences for targets and when designing interventions that account for the duration, intensity, and sequelae of this type of interpersonal trauma.
... Coercive behavior tends to rely more on aggression and fear to obtain social power without regard for the welfare of others Bruyn & Cillessen, 2006). The advantages of such behavior during adolescence include greater access to sexual partners (Flinn et al., 2005;Provenzano et al., 2018) and greater power over one's peers (e.g., Goodboy, Martin, & Rittenour, 2016;Mayeux, 2014;Pronk et al., 2017;Reijntjes et al., 2013;Sijtsema et al., 2009;van der Ploeg et al., 2020). On the other hand, bullies perceived by their peers as popular also tend to be less liked by their peers (Reijntjes et al., 2013;Vaillancourt et al., 2013) and experience more conflict with dating partners (Connolly et al., 2000). ...
Article
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We examined whether adverse ecological conditions (i.e., socioeconomic status, neighborhood violence, and parental attachment) were indirectly related to adolescents’ use of cooperative and coercive social strategies through their association with personality traits, consistent with both evolutionary and developmental theories that personality can be adaptively calibrated to the pursuit of social goals in particular ecological contexts. As expected, ecological factors (parental attachment, SES, neighborhood violence), and individual differences (HEXACO personality traits, age, sex) ere directly related to use of social dominance strategies. Specifically, anxious attachment and higher SES were indirectly related to cooperative strategies through Extraversion and low Honesty-Humility, whereas less supportive and/or violent environments were indirectly associated with coercive strategies through their relationships with selfish, impulsive, antisocial personality traits. Our results highlight the importance of adopting an ecological approach to adolescent social strategies and are consistent with evolutionary and developmental theories that posit links between individual differences and environmental factors that promote either mutualistic cooperative strategies or individualistic coercive strategies for obtaining social power.
... Additional cross-cultural evidence (see Ashton & Lee, 2020a), genetic evidence (Lewis & Bates, 2014), and behavioral evidence (e.g. Provenzano et al., 2018) all strongly support the HEXACO factors as representing an adaptive range of predispositions towards different forms of human behavior. For example, the high poles of Honesty-Humility, Emotionality, and Agreeableness would likely encourage cooperation with others, which has clear evolutionary advantages from the standpoint of reciprocal altruism (Hilbig et al., 2013). ...
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We identify pragmatic considerations as central for any current evaluation of models of personality trait structure. From this perspective, the HEXACO and Big Five perspectives are each probably good enough for making substantive progress in personality psychology.
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Teen dating violence (TDV) has received increasing research attention. Within the last year, its study has become particularly relevant with the uptick in online aggressive behaviors and interpersonal violence associated with COVID-19 lockdowns. While timely, TDV is not a new phenomenon nor is it unique to human relationships. This paper applies evolutionary theory to current understandings of TDV. First, TDV is oriented within the evolutionary context of adolescence as a developmental period. Next, the adaptive roots of TDV are considered, considering the perspectives of evolutionary theory and developmental genetics. Within the context of adolescence, what might be the evolved function of aggressing against a romantic or sexual partner? Lastly, implications for future research, prevention, and intervention are discussed. This paper highlights the importance of considering TDV from an evolutionary perspective.
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Researchers have long been interested in the relationship between feeling what you believe others feel?often described as empathy?and caring about the welfare of others?often described as compassion or concern. Many propose that empathy is a prerequisite for concern and is therefore the ultimate motivator of prosocial actions. To assess this hypothesis, the authors developed the Empathy Index, which consists of 2 novel scales, and explored their relationship to a measure of concern as well as to measures of cooperative and altruistic behavior. A series of factor analyses reveal that empathy and concern consistently load on different factors. Furthermore, they show that empathy and concern motivate different behaviors: concern for others is a uniquely positive predictor of prosocial action whereas empathy is either not predictive or negatively predictive of prosocial actions. Together these studies suggest that empathy and concern are psychologically distinct and empathy plays a more limited role in our moral lives than many believe.
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Understanding the nature of ‘‘evil’’ has been challenging for a number of reasons. A productive psychological approach to this problem has been to study antisocial traits associated with negative outcomes. One such approach has grouped together three antisocial personalities known as the ‘‘Dark Triad’’: Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy. Researchers have proposed various models to account for the common core of these antisocial personalities – a core that might well be considered the psychological equivalent of the core of ‘‘evil’’ – and these models have not been directly compared, to date. We conducted two studies (total N > 700) to compare the utility of the various models using Canonical Correlation Analyses (CCAs). Results confirm that the HEXACO personality model (and, in particular, the Honesty–Humility factor) is not only the most theoretically parsimonious model, it also best accounts for the empirical overlap between these constructs that represents the core of the Dark Triad. Results also support the idea that the core of the Dark Triad represents an alternative life history strategy.
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Bullying is a problem that affects adolescents worldwide. Efforts to prevent bullying have been moderately successful at best, or iatrogenic at worst. We offer an explanation for this limited success by employing an evolutionary-psychological perspective to analyze antibullying interventions. We argue that bullying is a goal-directed behavior that is sensitive to benefits as well as costs, and that interventions must address these benefits. This perspective led us to develop a novel antibullying intervention, Meaningful Roles, which offers bullies prosocial alternatives-meaningful roles and responsibilities implemented through a school jobs program and reinforced through peer-to-peer praise notes-that effectively meet the same status goals as bullying behavior. We describe this new intervention and how its theoretical evolutionary roots may be applicable to other intervention programs.
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Several models have been proposed to explain the overlap in the Dark Triad traits. Research indicates that the HEXACO model best accounted for the core of these constructs. "Sadism", has recently been added to the Triad resulting in a Dark Tetrad. The purpose of the current study was to determine whether the HEXACO model best accounts for the core of dark-personality traits with the addition of sadism. Four-hundred-and-ninety undergraduate students completed the study online. Although all models were significant, the HEXACO accounted for significantly more variability. Loadings suggest that the core is represented by low Honesty-Humility, Emotionality, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness, with Honesty-Humility having the largest impact. Individual regressions highlight potential conceptual differences between the dark personalities, though all were predicted by honesty-humility and agreeableness.
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Traditionally believed to be the result of maladaptive development, bullying perpetration is increasingly being viewed as a potentially adaptive behavior. We were interested in determining whether adolescents who bully others enjoy a key evolutionary benefit: increased dating and mating (sexual) opportunities. This hypothesis was tested in two independent samples consisting of 334 adolescents and 144 university students. The data partly supported our prediction that bullying, but not victimization, would predict dating behavior. The data for sexual behavior more clearly supported our hypothesis that bullying behavior predicts an increase in sexual opportunities even when accounting for age, sex, and self-reports of attractiveness, likeability, and peer victimization. These results are generally congruent with the hypothesis that bullying perpetration is, at least in part, an evolutionary adaptive behavior.
Book
The “H” in the H factor stands for “Honesty-Humility,” one of the six basic dimensions of the human personality. People who have high levels of H are sincere and modest; people who have low levels are deceitful and pretentious. It isn’t intuitively obvious that traits of honesty and humility go hand in hand, and until very recently the H factor hadn’t been recognized as a basic dimension of personality. But scientific evidence shows that traits of honesty and humility form a unified group of personality traits, separate from those of the other five groups identified several decades ago. This book, written by the discoverers of the H factor, explores the scientific findings that show the importance of this personality dimension in various aspects of people’s lives: their approaches to money, power, and sex; their inclination to commit crimes or obey the law; their attitudes about society, politics, and religion; and their choice of friends and spouse. Finally, the book provides ways of identifying people who are low in the H factor, as well as advice on how to raise one’s own level of H.
Article
Taking an evolutionary psychological perspective, we investigated whether involvement in bullying as a perpetrator or victim was more likely if adolescents reported having more dating and sexual partners than their peers, an indication of greater engagement in competition for mates. A total of 334 adolescents (173 boys, 160 girls) between the ages of 12 and 16 years (M = 13.6, SD = 1.3), recruited from community youth organizations, completed self-report measures of physical and relational bullying and victimization, as well as dating and sexual behavior. As predicted, pure physical bullying was positively associated with the number of dating and sexual partners, primarily for adolescent boys. Adolescent girls with more dating partners had greater odds of being relational bully-victims, in line with predictions. Finally, adolescent girls with more sexual partners were at greater risk of being physically victimized by peers, and greater involvement with dating and sexual partners was associated with higher odds of being a physical bully-victim. Results are discussed with respect to evolutionary theory and research in which adolescent boys may display strength and athleticism through physical bullying to facilitate intersexual selection, whereas relational bullying may be employed as a strategy to engage in intrasexual competition with rivals for mates. Aggr. Behav. 9999:1–12, 2016.