The study also found that genes played a minor role in determining non- aggressive antisocial behaviour, such as lying and stealing, which was more likely to be influenced by family and environment factors.
Scientists believe the findings show for the first time that an inclination towards bullying and other types of childhood aggression can be inherited, although they stress that the predisposition may be countered by changes to the way a child is raised.
Thalia Eley, a research fellow at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, and Paul Lichtenstein of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, carried out the study on more than 1,000 pairs of identical and non-identical sets of Swedish twins and 500 sets of British twins.
Their findings, published in the journal Child Development, were broadly identical for both countries, indicating that their observations may be truly biological rather than the result of cultural upbringing.
"The most notable feature [of the study] is the remarkable similarity between the results from the Swedish sample and the British sample," they say. The findings on aggression also applied equally to both boys and girls.
Jim Stevenson, professor of psychology at Southampton University and a member of the research team, said: "We're not saying there are specific genes for bullying. It doesn't mean to say that one can't create a remedial environment that will reverse this genetic predisposition."Reuse content