Almost everyone who has attended a school, public, private or otherwise, has had some experience with bullying.Bullying behavior can include physical aggression, threats, teasing, and harassment. Although it can lead to violence, bullying typically is not categorized with more serious forms of school violence involving weapons, vandalism, or physical harm.

bully is someone who directs physical, verbal, or psychological aggression or harassment toward others, with the goal of gaining power over or dominating another individual. Research indicates that bullying is more prevalent in boys than girls, though this difference decreases when considering indirect aggression (such as verbal threats).

victim is someone who repeatedly is exposed to aggression from peers in the form of physical attacks, verbal assaults, or psychological abuse. Victims are more likely to be boys and to be physically weaker than peers. They may have few close friends and may display more social and academic difficulties than their peers.


  • Between 15% and 30% of students in America are bullies or victims.

  • A recent report from the American Medical Association on a study of over 15,000 6th-10th graders estimates that approximately 3.7 million youths engage in, and more than 3.2 million are victims of, moderate or serious bullying each year.

  • Bullying is often a factor in more serious forms of school violence.

  • Membership in either bully or victim groups is associated with school drop out, poor psychosocial adjustment, criminal activity and other negative long-term consequences.

  • Direct, physical bullying increases in elementary school, peaks in middle school and declines in high school. Verbal abuse, on the other hand, remains constant. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that younger students are more likely to be bullied than older students.

  • Over two-thirds of students believe that schools respond poorly to bullying, with a high percentage of students believing that adult help is infrequent and ineffective.

  • Children are not “born to bully”.Bullying is unacceptable anti-social behavior that is learned through influences in the environment, e.g., home, school, peer groups, even the media. As such, it also can be unlearned or, better yet, prevented.


Most bullying behavior develops in response to multiple factors in the environment—at home, school and within the peer group. There is no one cause of bullying. Common contributing factors include:

  • Family factors: The frequency and severity of bullying is related to the amount of adult supervision that children receive.Less supervision and inconsistent discipline can lead to bullying behavior. Additionally, children who observe parents and siblings exhibiting bullying behavior, or who are themselves victims, are likely to develop bullying behaviors. When children receive negative messages or physical punishment at home, they tend to develop negative self concepts and expectations, and may therefore attack before they are attacked—bullying others gives them a sense of power and importance.

  • School factors: If school personnel ignore bullying, children can be reinforced for intimidating others. Bullying also thrives in an environment where students are more likely to receive negative feedback and negative attention than in a positive school climate that fosters respect and sets high standards for interpersonal behavior.

  • Peer group factors: Children may interact in a school or neighborhood peer group that advocates, supports, or promotes bullying behavior. Some children may bully peers in an effort to “fit in,” even though they may be uncomfortable with the behavior.


Victims signal to others that they are insecure, primarily passive and will not retaliate if they are attacked. Consequently, bullies often target children who complain, appear physically or emotionally weak and seek attention from peers.

Studies show that victims have a higher prevalence of overprotective parents or school personnel; as a result, they often fail to develop their own coping skills.

Many victims long for approval; even after being rejected, some continue to make ineffective attempts to interact with the bullies.


Bullies have a lack of respect for others’ basic human rights; they are more likely to resort to violence to solve problems without worry of the potential implications.

Both bullies and victims show higher rates of fighting than their peers.

Recent school shootings show how victims’ frustration with bullying can turn into vengeful violence.


  • Contact the school’s psychologist, counselor, or social worker and ask for help around bullying or victimization concerns. Become involved in school programs to counteract bullying.

  • Provide positive feedback to children for appropriate social behaviors and model interactions that do not include bullying or aggression.

  • Use alternatives to physical punishment, such as the removal of privileges, as a consequence for bullying behavior.

  • Stop bullying behavior as it is happening and begin working on appropriate social skills early.

  • Remember, always focus on the observable behavior when correcting your child, rather than making generalized comments about the child’s “goodness or badness”.Any child who is told he is bad, mean, no-good, etc. will feel that way inside.This in turn will increase the likelihood of bullying behavior.

  • The number one thing we as parents can do, to prevent our children from becoming bullies themselves, is to interact with them positively every day.Spending quality time with your children on a daily basis, and responding consistently to behavioral problems when they arise, gives children confidence in their own abilities and values.To put it simply, those that are treated positively, will act positively toward others.

Adapted from the online article: Bullying: Facts for Schools and Parents, by Andrea Cohn & Andrea Canter, Ph.D., NCSP National Association of School Psychologists

More information on this topic is available on the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) official website:

Or, contact Joel Bartholomay, School Psychologist at:

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