Bullies are in all shapes and sizes: They may be big or small, male or female, popular or unpopular and many other things. It is always important to know you cannot tell that someone is a bully by their appearance. Just because someone is large for their age does not make them a bully.
Some bullies may target people online, and others may target the victim at school or in public. Wherever the bully engages in this behavior, they tend to have the follow traits and characteristics:
- Impulsive and have poor anger management control.
- Attempt to control others rather than inspiring them to follow.
- Easily annoyed and frustrated by others.
- Are not empathetic; are not sympathetic to the needs of others
- Blames victim for the bully’s behavior, saying things such as, if that person weren’t so ugly, I wouldn’t have to bother him.
- Hard time following rules and showing respect for authority.
- Looks at violence as a positive way to solve problems or for entertainment.
- Boys who bully are usually stronger physically than others.
- Girls who bully tend to be viewed as popular.
More factors to keep in mind regarding bullies:
- It is an intentional act. When a young person chooses to engage in this behavior, the victim is not to blame at all. All bullies are responsible for their bullying behavior.
- It is aggressive behavior. Bullies are intending to hurt, threaten, harm and harass others. It usually spans a long period of time and is not one incident. Calling names, hitting, ostracizing and threatening are the most common bullying behaviors.
- Bullies want to have control and power. Bullying is not playful. Bullies want to dominate and control other people.
- Bullying can be verbal, visual and/or physical. It does not have to be just hitting or pushing others. It can include insults, taunts, gossip, and threats.
- Cyberbullying is a major factor today. The use of modern technology to bully others is very common today. Some of the technology tools used to bully others include Vine, Instagram, Facebook, SMS texting, and other popular social media tools. One of the dangers with cyberbullying is that it is somewhat anonymous as the bully can use a fake username. The bullying also can spread very quickly among peers online.
- Bullying can be discriminatory. It is common for bullies to target race, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
- Bullying is never innocent. It is a malicious act that can cause the targets to feel anxious, depressed and humiliated. Bullying can cause children and teens to harm themselves and even commit suicide.
Risk Factors in Families for Bullying
There is not any one cause for children becoming bullies. There are many factors that can make children more likely to become bullies. However, research has found that those who bully are more likely to come from homes with some of the following traits:
- Lack of involvement and warmth on the part of parents or guardians. This could be because there is only one parent in the home, or the parents are too tired or apathetic to take an active role in child rearing.
- Parents are overly permissive. When children do not have enough rules and guidance, they can act out by trying to exert control over peers. Parents who do not set proper limits can make their children feel entitled to control others.
- General lack of parental supervision. When a child or teen does not have enough supervision, the children may have to fend for themselves. Children are not capable of acting appropriately in many cases without parents to guide them. They can be mean, bossy and demanding of others.
- Physical discipline in the home. Parents who use a lot of corporal punishment that is abusive can lead to children who use physical force on others to get their way.
- General conflict and chaos in the home. Children who see physical conflict in the home regularly can be more likely to bully others. Regular chaos such as lack of stable adults in the home on a daily basis, or moving regularly, can cause bullying.
Bullying and Related Antisocial Behaviors
It is important to note that bullying can be due to various underlying psychological problems. Some of the most common mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, can make it more likely to engage in bullying behavior. Some children and teenagers may start to engage in bullying behavior if they have been physically or mentally abused. Others could start to bully if they have a traumatic event in their lives, such as the death of a loved one.
Children who bully also may have a variety of problems and costs that affect society:
- Get into fights on a frequent basis
- Get hurt in fights
- Steal property or vandalize property
- Drink alcoholic beverages
- Smoke cigarettes or marijuana
- Not attend school on time
- Drop out of high school
- Carry weapons
If you or someone you know has been a victim of bullying, please report it to a parent or authority figure immediately.
- Characteristics of Bullies. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.burltwpsch.org/uploads/17/files/Characteristics%20of%20Bullies(1).pdf
- Characteristics of Bullying. (2015). Retrieved from http://barethebully.org/2015/05/15/7-characteristics-of-bullying/