The Psychology Of Bullying

A Paper On Analysis

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Psychology Research & Review

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How do children develop into bullies? How do you know if your child is being a bully? What do you do if your child is the bully?

These are questions we will attempt to answer, and shed light on how and why children become bullies.

This article is part of a series on bullying. For more practical advice that will give parents key insight into identifying whether your child is a bully or being bullied see:

The effects of Bullying On A Child. - Just how do bullies operate? How many different effects does bullying have on children?
How To Tell When Your Child is the Bully.
Signs that Your Child is Being Bullied


Bullying is a serious issue that is faced by many people, and can leave a child to live in complete fear. It is destructive, abusive, and intolerable to exist in any home or school. There are all types of bullies and all types of victims yet bullies have certain commonalities as do the victims. Bullying can cause lifelong psychological effects that may require therapy in order to overcome. In more serious cases, the bullying has gotten so bad that the victim chooses to take their own life just to escape the bullying they endure. It is helpful to recognize the behavior of a bully as well as the signs that someone is a victim as the sooner the signs are spotted the sooner help can arrive for all parties involved. Here you will find the signs and symptoms of the bullying/victim relationship and find out what can be done to curb this behavior and help someone who is in a toxic situation.

Bullies have existed since the beginning of time as have the victims who have suffered from the bullying. Today, with the age of the digital world, bullying no longer simply happens in one's personal space. Now, people can be harrassed from thousands of miles away over the internet with sites like twitter, facebook, and others. With so many different ways to bully others in this day in age, it is getting harder and harder to control it and protect the victims. The age old question though is what makes a bully a bully? Who are bullies and what are their motivations? Why are certain people targets of bullies more than others? This paper will look into bullying from a psychological standpoint and attempt to take a look into the mind of a bully. There will also be exploration into the types of bullying that are faced today which are staggering considering the new world of technology that we now live in.

What is Bullying?

Bullying can consist of many different types of behaviors. Physical bullying consists of any type of physical violence, no matter how small. This type of bullying makes up 30.5% of school bullying. (Time for Tolerance, 2008). It consists of actually beating of the victim or a simple action of sticking out one’s foot and tripping someone. Another type of bullying is verbal bullying. This type of bullying consists of name calling, teasing, making fun of others, and threats of violence. This type of bulling makes up 46.5% of bullying incidents in school. (Time for Tolerance, 2008). Next is intimidation. This type of bullying occurs when the victim is threatened in order for the bully to get them to do what they want them to do such as homework assignments or giving them money. Lastly, and most disturbing is cyber bullying. This type of bullying is perhaps the most dangerous type of bullying as it can be done anonymously. Cyber bullying can find many mediums such as email, text messaging, and social networks such as Face Book and MySpace. Here the bully can remain unknown as they can create fake screen names and profiles. It makes it easier to be a bully and to fall victim. Cyber bullying can consist of threats of violence, verbal abuse, and spreading false information for the purpose of embarrassing someone or hurting their reputations. The Cyber Bullying Research Center says that “We define cyberbullying [sic] as:

"Cyberbullying [sic] is when someone repeatedly harasses, mistreats, or makes fun of another person online or while using cell phones or other electronic devices."(Cyberbullying Research Center, 2011).

Who is the Bully?

Bullies do not fit into a neat little box. They come from all walks of lives, all ages, all genders, all races, and all cultures. “Bullies are very often people who have been bullied or abused themselves. Sometimes they are experiencing life situations they cannot cope with, that leave them feeling helpless and out of control.” (TktTuder, 2000). Many times, a bully does not feel that they can find any other means of fitting in or carving out their own niche in life so they turn to being powerful in a way that they feel brings them respect. They feel that being feared is the way to gain respect and surround themselves with friends and people who look up to them. However, what they do not realize is that people are “friends” with them so they do not become a target of their bullying. It all comes down to fear. Another possibility of the reason being the bullying attitude is that they bully themselves feels that they have no control in their lives. Maybe their home life is out of control and they are not listened to or valued by their family. In order to compensate for the lack of value at home the bully finds it in other places in inappropriate and unhealthy ways. Even though these are all valid explanations sometimes the only explanation is that the bully is a mean and cruel person who only feels good when they can cause others harm. These types feel no remorse and rarely stop bullying. This may be a pattern for their entire lives. The above mentioned facts on bullies have been widely accepted for many years, but new research proposes that bullying is something entirely different to some people.” Psychologists used to believe that bullies have low self-esteem, and put down other people to feel better about themselves. While many bullies are themselves bullied at home or at school, new research shows that most bullies actually have excellent self-esteem. Bullies usually have a sense of entitlement and superiority over others, and lack compassion, impulse control and social skills.” (St.Clair, 2011).

Though there are different reasons behind the behavior of bullying, most bullies have certain things in common. Bullies behave in a dominant manner and cast blame for the bad things in their lives upon others. Though bullying is a learned behavior, genetics can play a part. For instance, some people are more predisposed to violence and aggression. However, not all people with these tendencies become bullies. Some are able to find ways to take out their aggression and anger in more manageable and healthy ways. It can be a simple matter of nature versus nurture. Another commonality in bullies is that they are attention seekers. Though the attention they receive is negative they still crave it as often it is the only attention that they receive.

The people in the bully’s life that also have an effect on their behavior. On one side, the bully may have a family who does not care about the bully’s behavior and may even encourage it because they are the same way towards people. On the other hand, the bully’s parents may also be fearful of the bully and feel afraid to stand up to them and show them how to change their behavior. If the parents are fearful of doling out discipline to the bully then the bully learns that they can get away with their behavior since their own parents cannot even stop their behavior. When there is discipline from the parents it is usually not consistent. “If his parents are in a good mood, the child gets away with bad behavior. If the same parent is under stress, he or she will take it out in angry outbursts against the child. This child never internalizes rules of conduct or respect for authority.” (St.Clair, 2011).

Who are the Victims?

Though anyone can become the target of a bully, there are some commonalties between those who fall victim to bullying as bullies tend to choose a certain type of person to abuse. “There are many reasons how and why bullies target others, and the reasons are consistent between cases.”(Bully Online, 2006). People who are victims of bullying find themselves being bullied due to their achievements, do not have a large circle of friends, subjected to unwarranted teasing and rumors, and tend to be more serious about important things in life such as school or work. Most people who are targets of bullies have something different about them. Maybe they wear thick glasses, dress differently, or are painfully shy. Many are awkward in social situations and try not to draw attention to themselves. Targets of bullies often have little or no friends who can stick up for them (which is one reason that they bully feels that they can abuse them.)and already have low self-esteem. Bullies also target those who appear to be vulnerable and the main theory is that they do this so that there is little chance the person will stand up for themselves, making them easy to abuse. “When bullied, they become visibly frightened, cry, or do not have an appropriate response. That is just what the child who bullies wants; it becomes an invitation to even more bullying.” (NBPC, 2011)

Effects of Bullying on the Victim

Bullying can, and often does, have lasting lifelong effect on the victim. Being bullied effects the victims self esteem which are even more significant when the victim already has had self esteem issues. Many victims need counseling to come to grips with the bullying and to help rebuild their lives as bullying can lead to depression, panic attacks, and physical ailments such as ulcers. Children who are bullied often suffer academically due to the fact that they fear going to school where the source of their stress resides. Some children are so affected by bullying that they choose not to further their education due to fear of having to face bullying in other atmospheres such as college. Many people who are bullied are so hurt by the cruel treatment that they contemplate suicide and some actually attempt and succeed in taking their own lives. “There is often no end to bullying for victims. Devastating effects of bullying is the pattern it creates in victims’ minds and personalities that can last their whole life.”(Abel, 2010). It is common for children who are bullied to be the victim of bullying in their adult lives as well since their self esteem has been so devalued and they cannot seem to find the courage to stop being a victim.

Another serious issue for the victims of bullying is that the friends that they do have turn their back on the victim because they are afraid of being the outcast or the target. This further alienates the victim from their normal world. Also, for some victims, being bullied is a whole other learning experience. Sometimes the victim, out of anger and lack of control of their own lives, seek out someone who is weaker than they are and target them; hence the victim turns into the bully. These are all serious effects that can truly change the victim’s life and outlook on the future.

Effects of Bullying on the Bully

Though it may sound strange, there are actually negative effects from bullying on the bullies themselves. “Bullies can suffer long-term effects of bullying if their behavior is not addressed. Compelling research confirms that bullies are twice as likely as their peers to have criminal convictions and four times more likely to be multiple offenders.” (Abel, 2010). Sometimes a bully can actually hate the way they treat their victims but somehow feel justified in doing so since they are abused by others as well. This feeling tends to override the feeling of empathy which makes for a psychological mess for the bully. Feeling conflicted about their behavior is also a source of stress that makes them want to bully more. If a bully is not stopped and treated then the chance of them stopping and becoming a different and healthier person is very slim and their behavior will continue into adulthood, affecting the type of life they lead.

What Can we Do?

Bullying does not have to be a reality that one must live with. If a person is being bullied they should tell someone; a parent, teacher, or counselor. Parents must take an active role in their child’s life and safety. If a parent knows that their child is bullying then they must take steps to stop this behavior. Going to counseling can help get to the root of the issue and help the bully to change their behavior before it is too late. If a person is a witness to a bullying event then it is their responsibility to step in whether by taking up for the victim or by getting an adult right away. The bystander effect (seeing bullying but being too afraid to get involved) is no excuse and can cause further future damage to the victim and the bully. Saying nothing is almost as bad as committing the bullying acts itself.


Bullying is a serious issue. There are many reasons for bullying but none are so serious that they cannot be overcome with the right treatment. This type of behavior must be curbed as it has proven to have lasting psychological effects on the victims and lasting effects on the bully as well. Knowing what bullying is and what the signs of bullying are is a step in the right direction in stopping it in its tracks. There is help for both the bully and the victim and anyone who knows that bullying is going on is responsible for helping to get the process of help going. It may not be happening to you personally, but it is everyone’s responsibility to help stop it.

The effects of Bullying On A Child. - Just how do bullies operate? How many different effects does bullying have on children?
How To Tell When Your Child is the Bully.
Signs that Your Child is Being Bullied


Abel, C. (2010). The effects of bullying for victims [Online Forum Comment]. Retrieved from

Abel, C. (2010). What are the effects of bullying on the bully? [Online Forum Comment]. Retrieved from

Bully Online, . (2006, March 25). Bullying: what is it? Retrieved from

Cyberbullying Research Center, . (2011). Research. Cyberbullying research center. Retrieved August 1, 2011, from

NBPC, (2011). Why are kids targeted by bullying?. Retrieved from

St.Clair, J. (2011). What causes bullies?. Retrieved from

TktTuder, (2000). Bullies: who are bullies? Retrieved from

Time for Tolerance, (2008). Types of bullying. Retrieved from

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