Victimization by bullying and non-bullying aggression: An evolutionary psychological perspective
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Using an evolutionary psychological perspective, I investigated the correlates of two kinds of peer victimization with differential power relations between the perpetrator and victim. Bullying is goal-directed aggression towards an individual with less power than the perpetrator. In contrast, non-bullying aggression is aimed towards an individual of equal or greater power than the perpetrator. Specifically, I examined the relation between psychosocial vulnerability and evolutionary advantages with both types of victimization. A total of 627 adolescents aged 9-14 years (M = 11.93; SD = 1.40) completed self-report and peer nomination measures. Indicators of psychosocial vulnerability included emotional problems and fewer close friendships. Evolutionary advantages were assessed by measuring peer-nominated physical attractiveness, dating popularity, perceived popularity, and respect by others. Victimization by bullying was not related to psychosocial vulnerability, but was negatively associated with physical attractiveness, perceived popularity, and respect. As predicted, victimization by non-bullying aggression was positively associated with all four evolutionary advantages. The results demonstrate the importance of measuring the power relation between the perpetrator and victim when studying peer victimization. Adolescents victimized by those with greater power may be targeted due to the vulnerability of having fewer evolutionary advantages. In contrast, adolescents victimized by those of equal or less power may be targeted due to competition and rivalry, insofar as they possess greater evolutionary advantages than their peers, which mark them as rivals.