Once a Bully, Always a Bully?

A history of childhood bullying might predict a man's likelihood to abuse their partners

Next time you’re on a date with a new guy, here’s something to add to your list of getting-to-know-you questions: Did you ever bully your classmates as a kid?

Though it’s an interesting ice-breaker to be sure, the topic may also tell you a lot more about your new love interest than you bargained for -- whether or not he’s likely to bully you.

According to new research published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, men who abuse women are much more likely to have bullied their peers as kids.

In a survey of 1,491 men, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that schoolyard bullies were nearly four times as likely to have physically or sexually abused their partner in the past year. Compared to people who never bullied, those who sometimes tormented their classmates were one and a half times more likely to harm their girlfriends or spouses. Bet we know what kind of kid Chris Brown was on the playground.

Not surprisingly, a CDC report has also linked school bullying to family violence -- bullies are often the victims at home.

Another study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine this year found overly controlling men are also more likely to batter women. If your guy tries to limit the amount of time you spend with your friends, or always wants to know your whereabouts, these could be signs that he’s prone to physical or sexual abuse. The most common behaviors exhibited by wife- and girlfriend-abusers are getting angry when you talk to another guy, and always being suspicious that you’re cheating.

One in four women will be a victim of domestic abuse in their lifetime. Past research from the University of Haifa has found that, contrary to popular belief, domestic abuse is usually the result of a calculated decision-making process -- and not from a sudden loss of control. According to researcher Eila Perkis, the violent partner might think it’s from an unmanageable burst of anger, but he is usually able to control his actions with his boss or friends. He’ll only go as far as he thinks he can without getting punished. One thing that does tend to set abusive partners off is a poorly performing sports team. According to this news report, domestic violence climbs when local sports teams lose.

Poor sportsmanship aside, teaching kids early on that bullying is not okay may help reduce future acts of violence, says researchers. If your kid is being bullied on the playground -- or is the one doing the bullying -- here are some suggestions from iVillage on how to intervene

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