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Surprising Science

Aggressive Boys Grow Up to Be Strong Young Men

Researchers cast doubt on a widely held belief that a bully must be physically imposing. Their studies reveal aggressive behavior comes first; strength comes as they mature.

The iconic bullies from pop culture are always built. They’re big and they’re mean, but Nathan Collins from Pacific Standardwrites that this portrait is misleading. There’s a mindset that a bully must be able to pack a punch in order to maintain his status in the school yard, but that’s not the case. A recent study has found that the aggression comes before the muscle.

Joshua D. Isen and his colleagues have evidence to cast doubt on the Biffs and Nelsons of pop culture. They argue that anti-social, aggressive boys develop into physically strong men — not the other way around.

“As children approach adulthood, they become much less aggressive, while simultaneously developing greater physical strength.”

Isen and his team took data from about 2,500 kids who had taken part in a Minnesota Twin Family Study, which tracked the adolescents’ physical and psychological growth at ages 11, 14, and 17. The researchers zeroed-in on a particular exercise that took handgrip strength and examined anti-social or aggressive tendencies.

They found that 11-year-old boys that scored higher for aggression tended to be just as strong as their less-aggravated fellows. But, by age 17, those children diverge in strength; the more aggressive boys grip strength had increased — they were about seven pounds stronger than the more average-tempered boys.

“Put another way, a very aggressive boy will tend to be 7.5 percent stronger than his average male peer at age 17.”

The researchers indicated that for girls maturing into women, there’s no evidence of a relationship between strength and aggression. As for how to curb bullying or aggressive behavior in school, a solution has yet to be found.

Read more at Pacific Standard.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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