Bully: Cruel to people, not animals

U. MICHIGAN (US) — The more adversities a child experiences, the more likely that child will become a bully. Those challenges have little effect on whether or not a person will be cruel to animals, a new study shows.

New research published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence finds that both bullying and cruelty to animals are associated with various antisocial behaviors, including getting into fights, having school attendance problems, lying, and stealing.

For bullying, other triggers include being made to do chores that are too difficult or dangerous. Significant factors related to animal cruelty involve swearing and saying hurtful things, having a parent or other adult living in the home who was incarcerated, and being sexually assaulted by an adult.

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“The cumulative burden of adversities had strong effects on the likelihood of bullying,” says Brian Perron, associate professor of social work at University of Michigan. “The results also suggested that the mechanisms that give rise to bullying are separate from animal cruelty.”

The research used data came from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, which samples adults. In the survey, that gathered information about substance use and psychiatric disorder from individuals living in households and group nationwide, 1,968 respondents indicated having a history of bullying and 475 had been cruel to animals. Nearly 32,000 people reported neither behavior.

People reporting a lifetime history of bullying and cruelty to animals were significantly more likely to be men, single, have less education, and have lower levels of income. Compared with respondents ages 18 to 34, people 35 and older were less likely to report bullying behavior and cruelty to animals.

In addition, persons diagnosed with lifetime alcohol or drug use were significantly more likely to report bullying and cruelty to animals than respondents without these disorders.

Researchers from Iowa State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Saint Louis University, and Florida State University contributed to the study.

More news from the University of Michigan: www.ns.umich.edu/