Guide to Bullies

Bullying Defined

BulliedBullying among kids is aggressive behavior that always involves an imbalance of strength and power. This behavior is rarely a one-time event; bullying continues over time. This bullying can take many forms:

  • Hitting or punching (physical bullying)

  • Teasing or name-calling (verbal bullying)

  • Intimidation through gestures or social exclusion ( nonverbal bullying or emotional bullying)

  • Sending insulting messages by e-mail and text messaging or posting on social networking websites (cyber bullying) 

Who Becomes a  Bully?

There is no one single cause of bullying among children, but there are individual, family, peer, school, and community factors that can put a child at risk for becoming a bully.

Although each child is different, those who bully others do share some common characteristics. Here are some things to look for:

Common Characteristics of Children Who Bully

Kids who bully their peers regularly tend to be:

  • Impulsive, hot-headed, dominant

  • Easily frustrated

  • Lack empathy

  • Have difficulty following rules

  • View violence in a positive way

  • Boys who bully tend to be physically stronger than other children.

Family risk factors for bullying

Kids who bully are more likely to live in homes where there is:

  • A lack of warmth and involvement on the part of parents

  • Overly permissive parenting (including a lack of limits for children's behavior)

  • A lack of supervision by parents

  • Harsh, physical discipline

  • Bullying incidences at home

Peer Risk Factors for  Bullying

Kids who bully are more likely to have friends who bully and enjoy violent behavior.

Common Myths about Kids who Bully


MYTH: "Children who bully are loners"

  • In fact, research shows that kids who bully are not socially isolated.

  • Kids who bully report having an easier time making friends than kids who don't bully.

  • Bullies usually have at least a small group of friends who support or encourage their bullying.

MYTH: "Children who bully have low self-esteem."

  • In fact, most research indicates that these kids have average or above-average self-esteem.

  • Interventions that focus on building the self-esteem of kids who bully probably will be ineffective in stopping the bullying behavior.

Bullying and Other Violent and/or Antisocial Behaviors

Research shows that bullying can be a sign of other serious antisocial and/or violent behavior. Children who frequently bully their peers are more likely than others to:

  • Get into frequent fights

  • Be injured in a fight

  • Vandalize or steal property

  • Drink alcohol

  • Smoke

  • Be truant from school

  • Drop out of school

  • Carry a weapon


When Your Child is the Bully

If you know or suspect that your child is bullying other kids, go here to learn 6 action steps that you can take.