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For school bullying, see School bullying.

Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively dominate others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite is the perception, by the bully or by others, of an imbalance of social or physical power. Behaviors used to assert such domination can include verbal harassment or threat, physical assault or coercion, and such acts may be directed repeatedly towards particular targets. Justifications and rationalizations for such behavior sometimes include differences of social class, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, appearance, behavior, body language, personality, reputation, lineage, strength, size or ability.[1][2] If bullying is done by a group, it is called mobbing.[3] "Targets" of bullying are also sometimes referred to as "victims" of bullying.

Bullying can be defined in many different ways. The UK currently has no legal definition of bullying,[4] while some U.S. states have laws against it.[5] Bullying consists of four basic types of abuse – emotional (sometimes called relational), verbal, physical, and cyber.[6] It typically involves subtle methods of coercion such as intimidation.

Bullying ranges from simple one-on-one bullying to more complex bullying in which the bully may have one or more "lieutenants" who may seem to be willing to assist the primary bully in his or her bullying activities. Bullying in school and the workplace is also referred to as peer abuse.[7] Robert W. Fuller has analyzed bullying in the context of rankism.

A bullying culture can develop in any context in which human beings interact with each other. This includes school, family, the workplace, home, and neighborhoods. In a 2012 study of male adolescent football players, "the strongest predictor was the perception of whether the most influential male in a player's life would approve of the bullying behavior".[8]


Bullying may be defined as the activity of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person, physically, mentally or emotionally. Bullying is characterized by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person.[9] It can be classified into four types:[10]

  1. Physical (hitting, punching, or kicking)
  2. Verbal (name-calling or taunting)
  3. Relational (destroying peer acceptance and friendships)
  4. Cyber-bullying (using electronic means to harm others)

Physical, verbal, and relational bullying are most prevalent in primary school and could also begin much earlier in preschool. Cyber-bullying, arguably the most destructive and common form today, is more common in secondary school than in primary school.[10]

Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus[11] says bullying occurs when a person is "exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons". He says negative actions occur "when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways."[12]


The word "bully" was first used in the 1530s meaning "sweetheart", applied to either sex, from the Dutch boel "lover, brother", probably diminutive of Middle High German buole "brother", of uncertain origin (compare with the German buhle "lover"). The meaning deteriorated through the 17th century through "fine fellow", "blusterer", to "harasser of the weak". This may have been as a connecting sense between "lover" and "ruffian" as in "protector of a prostitute", which was one sense of "bully" (though not specifically attested until 1706). The verb "to bully" is first attested in 1710.[13]


High-level forms of violence such as assault and murder usually receive most media attention, but lower-level forms of violence such as bullying have only by the 2000s started to be addressed by researchers, parents and guardians, and authority figures.[14] It is only in recent years that bullying has been recognised and recorded as a separate and distinct offence, but there have been well documented cases that have been recorded over the centuries.[which?] Virginia Woolf considered fascism to be a form of bullying, and wrote of Hitler and the Nazis in 1934 as "these brutal bullies".[15][16]


Of bullies and accomplices

Studies have shown that envy and resentment may be motives for bullying.[17] Research on the self-esteem of bullies has produced equivocal results.[18][19] While some bullies are arrogant and narcissistic,[20] bullies can also use bullying as a tool to conceal shame or anxiety or to boost self-esteem: by demeaning others, the abuser feels empowered.[21] Bullies may bully out of jealousy or because they themselves are bullied.[22]

Researchers have identified other risk factors such as depression[23] and personality disorders,[24] as well as quickness to anger and use of force, addiction to aggressive behaviors, mistaking others' actions as hostile, concern with preserving self image, and engaging in obsessive or rigid actions.[25] A combination of these factors may also be causes of this behavior.[26] In one recent study of youth, a combination of antisocial traits and depression was found to be the best predictor of youth violence, whereas video game violence and television violence exposure were not predictive of these behaviors.[27]

Bullying may also result from a genetic predisposition or a brain abnormality in the bully.[28] While parents can help a toddler develop emotional regulation and effortful control to restrict aggressive behavior, some children fail to develop these skills due to insecure attachment with their families, ineffective discipline, and environmental factors such as a stressful home life and hostile siblings.[10] Moreover, according to some researchers, bullies may be inclined toward negativity and perform poorly academically. Dr. Cook says that "a typical bully has trouble resolving problems with others and also has trouble academically. He or she usually has negative attitudes and beliefs about others, feels negatively toward himself/herself, comes from a family environment characterized by conflict and poor parenting, perceives school as negative and is negatively influenced by peers".[29]

Contrarily, some researchers have suggested that some bullies are "psychologically strongest" and have "high social standing" among their peers, while their targets are "emotionally distressed" and "socially marginalized".[30] Peer groups often promote the bully's actions, and members of these peer groups also engage in behaviors, such as "mocking, excluding, punching, and insulting one another" as a source of entertainment.[10] Other researchers also argued that a minority of the bullies, those who are not in turn bullied, "enjoy going to school, and are least likely to take days off sick".[31]

Research indicates that adults who bully have authoritarian personalities, combined with a strong need to control or dominate.[32] It has also been suggested that a prejudicial view of subordinates can be a particularly strong risk factor.[33]

Of typical bystanders

Often bullying takes place in the presence of a large group of relatively uninvolved bystanders. In many cases, it is the bully's ability to create the illusion that he or she has the support of the majority present that instills the fear of "speaking out" in protestation of the bullying activities being observed by the group. Unless the "bully mentality" is effectively challenged in any given group in its early stages, it often becomes an accepted, or supported, norm within the group.[34][35]

It is the general unwillingness of bystanders to expend these types of energies and to undertake this type of risk that bullies often rely upon in order to maintain their power. Unless action is taken, a "culture of bullying" is often perpetuated within a group for months, years, or longer.[36]

Bystanders who have been able to establish their own "friendship group" or "support group" have been found to be far more likely to opt to speak out against bullying behavior than those who have not.[37][38]

In addition to communication of clear expectations that bystanders should intervene and increasing individual self-efficacy, there is growing research that suggests interventions should build on the foundation that children’s belief that bullying is morally wrong.[39]

Among adults, being a bystander to workplace bullying was linked to depressive symptoms, particularly for women.[40]

Of victims

Dr. Cook says that "A typical victim is likely to be aggressive, lack social skills, think negative thoughts, experience difficulties in solving social problems, come from a negative family, school and community environments and be noticeably rejected and isolated by peers".[29]

The results of a metanalysis conducted by Cook and published by the American Psychological Association in 2010 concluded the main risk factors for children and adolescents being bullied, and also for becoming bullies, are the lack of social problem-solving skills.[29]


Mona O'Moore of the Anti-Bullying Centre at Trinity College in Dublin, has written, "There is a growing body of research which indicates that individuals, whether child or adult, who are persistently subjected to abusive behavior are at risk of stress related illness which can sometimes lead to suicide".[41] Those who have been the targets of bullying can suffer from long term emotional and behavioral problems. Bullying can cause loneliness, depression, anxiety, lead to low self-esteem and increased susceptibility to illness.[42] Bullying has also been shown to cause maladjustment in young children, and targets of bullying who were also bullies themselves exhibit even greater social difficulties.[43]

There have been many organizations they were made to help stop or even limit bulling.


Main article: Bullycide

Even though there is evidence that bullying increases the risk of suicide, bullying alone does not cause suicide. Depression is one of the main reasons why kids who are bullied commit suicide. [44] It is estimated that between 15 and 25 children commit suicide every year in the UK alone, because they are being bullied.[45] Certain races and genders are at a higher risk for suicide than others such as; American Indian, Alaskan Native, Asian American, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. When someone is unsupported by his or her family or friends, it can make the situation much worse for the victim. http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/effects/#suicide

While some people find it very easy to ignore a bully, others may find it very difficult and reach a breaking point. There have been cases of apparent bullying suicides that have been reported closely by the media. These include the deaths of Ryan Halligen, Phoebe Prince, Dawn-Marie Wesley, Kelly Yeomans, Jessica Haffer,[46] Hamed Nastoh,[47] April Himes,[48] Cherice Moralez[49] and Rebecca Ann Sedwick.[50]


Bullied students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold carried out the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Since then, bullying has been more closely linked to high school violence in general.[51]

Serial killers were frequently bullied through direct and indirect methods as children or adolescents. Henry Lee Lucas, a serial killer and diagnosed psychopath, said the ridicule and rejection he suffered as a child caused him to hate everyone. Kenneth Bianchi, a serial killer and member of the Hillside Stranglers, was teased as a child because he urinated in his pants and suffered twitching, and as a teenager was ignored by his peers.[52]

Positive development

Some have argued that bullying can teach life lessons and instill strength. Helene Guldberg, a child development academic, sparked controversy when she argued that being a target of bullying can teach a child "how to manage disputes and boost their ability to interact with others", and that teachers should not intervene, but leave children to respond to the bullying themselves:[53]

Despite the fact that the majority of those who may find themselves to be the targets of bullying behavior may ultimately feel "harmed" by such targeting, a few studies have pointed up some potentially positive outcomes from bullying behavior.[54] These studies have found that with some individuals, as a result of their having been targeted with bullying behavior, this certain minority of former bullying "targets" have actually experienced being "enabled" through their experiences with bullying to develop various coping strategies which included "standing up for themselves" in ways which acted to "re-balance" former imbalances of power. Such former bullying targets have reported such things as "becoming a better person" as a result of their former bullying ordeals.[54] The teaching of such anti-bullying coping skills to "would-be-targets" and to others has been found to be an effective long term means of reducing bullying incidence rates and a valuable skill-set for individuals.[55]

Dark triad

Main article: Dark triad

Research on the dark triad (narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy) indicate a correlation with bullying as part of evidence of the aversive nature of those traits.[56]


A bully may project his/her own feelings of vulnerability onto the target(s) of the bullying activity. Despite the fact that a bully's typically denigrating activities are aimed at the bully's targets, the true source of such negativity is ultimately almost always found in the bully's own sense of personal insecurity and/ or vulnerability.[57] Such aggressive projections of displaced negative emotions can occur anywhere from the micro-level of interpersonal relationships, all the way up through to the macro-level of international politics, or even international armed conflict.[58]

Emotional intelligence

Bullying is abusive social interaction between peers which can include aggression, harassment, and violence. Bullying is typically repetitive and enacted by those who are in a position of power over the victim. A growing body of research illustrates a significant relationship between bullying and emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EI) is a set of abilities related to the understanding, use and management of emotion as it relates to one's self and others. Mayer et al., (2008) defines the dimensions of overall EI as: "accurately perceiving emotion, using emotions to facilitate thought, understanding emotion, and managing emotion".[59] The concept combines emotional and intellectual processes.[60] Lower emotional intelligence appears to be related to involvement in bullying, as the bully and/or the victim of bullying. EI seems to play an important role in both bullying behavior and victimization in bullying; given that EI is illustrated to be malleable, EI education could greatly improve bullying prevention and intervention initiatives.[61]

In different contexts

Anti Bullying There are many different ways in whic a person can be bullied.


Main article: Cyberbullying

Cyber-bullying is any bullying done through the use of technology. This form of bullying can easily go undetected because of lack of parental/authoritative supervision. Because bullies can pose as someone else, it is the most anonymous form of bullying. Cyber bullying includes, but is not limited to, abuse using email, instant messaging, text messaging, websites, social networking sites, etc.[62] Particular watch dog organizations have been designed to contain the spread of cyber-bullying.[citation needed]

Disability bullying

Main article: Disability bullying

It has been noted that disabled people are disproportionately affected by bullying and abuse, and such activity has been cited as a hate crime.[63] The bullying is not limited to those who are visibly disabled such as wheelchair-users or physically deformed such as those with a cleft lip but also those with learning disabilities such as autism[64][65] and developmental coordination disorder.[66][67] In the latter case, this is linked to a poor ability in physical education, and this behaviour can be encouraged by the unthinking physical education teacher. Abuse of the disabled is not limited to schools. There are many known cases in which the disabled have been abused by staff of a "care institution", such as the case revealed in a BBC Panorama programme on a Castlebeck care home (Winterbourne View) near Bristol which led to its closure and the suspension and sacking of some of the staff.[68]

There is an additional problem that those with learning disabilities are often not as able to explain things to other people so are more likely to be disbelieved or ignored if they do complain.

Gay bullying

Main article: Gay bashing

Gay bullying and gay bashing are expressions used to designate verbal or physical actions that are direct or indirect in nature by a person or group against a person who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered (LGBT), or of questionable sexual orientation, or one who is perceived to be so, because of rumors or fitting gay stereotypes. Gay and lesbian youth are more likely to report bullying.[69]

Institutional bullying

Stephens and Hallas compare institutional bullying with corporate bullying, but see it as embedded as a norm of institutional culture.[70]

Legal bullying

Main article: Legal abuse

Legal bullying is the bringing of a vexatious legal action to control and punish a person. Legal bullying can often take the form of frivolous, repetitive, or burdensome lawsuits brought to intimidate the defendant into submitting to the litigant's request, not because of the legal merit of the litigant's position, but principally due to the defendant's inability to maintain the legal battle. This can also take the form of SLAPPs. It was partially concern about the potential for this kind of abuse that helped to fuel the protests against SOPA and PIPA in the United States in 2011 and 2012.

Military bullying

In 2000, the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) defined bullying as "the use of physical strength or the abuse of authority to intimidate or victimize others, or to give unlawful punishments".[71]

Some argue that this behaviour should be allowed, due to ways in which "soldiering" is different from other occupations. Soldiers expected to risk their lives should, according to them, develop strength of body and spirit to accept bullying.[72]

Parental bullying of children

Parents who may displace their anger, insecurity, or a persistent need to dominate and control, upon their children in excessive ways have been proven to increase the likelihood that their own children will in turn become overly aggressive or controlling towards their peers.[73] The American Psychological Association advises on its website that parents who may suspect that their own children may be engaging in bullying activities amongst their peers, should carefully consider the examples which they themselves may be setting for their own children, regarding how they typically interact with their own peers, colleagues, and children. Do the parents typically motivate their peers and their children with positive and self-confidence building incentives, or do they most often attempt to motivate their peers and children with certain "threats" of one form of "punishment" or "reprisal" or another (emotional blackmail or physical blackmail)?[74]

Prison bullying

Main article: Prisoner abuse

Another environment known for bullying is a country's prison service. This is almost inevitable when many of the people incarcerated are there for aggressive crimes and many were bullies at school. An additional complication is the staff and their relationships with the inmates. Thus the following possible bullying scenarios are possible:

School bullying

Main article: School bullying

Bullying can occur in nearly any part in or around the school building, though it may occur more frequently in physical education classes and activities, recess, hallways, bathrooms, on school buses and while waiting for buses, and in classes that require group work and/or after school activities. Bullying in school sometimes consists of a group of students taking advantage of or isolating one student in particular and gaining the loyalty of bystanders who want to avoid becoming the next target. These bullies may taunt and tease their target before physically bullying the target. Bystanders may participate or watch, sometimes out of fear of becoming the next target.

Bullying can also be perpetrated by teachers and the school system itself: There is an inherent power differential in the system that can easily predispose to subtle or covert abuse (relational aggression or passive aggression), humiliation, or exclusion — even while maintaining overt commitments to anti-bullying policies.[75][76][77]

In teaching

Main article: Bullying in teaching

School teachers are commonly the subject of bullying but they are also sometimes the originators of bullying within a school environment.

Sexual bullying

Main article: Sexual bullying
See also: Slut shaming

Sexual bullying is "any bullying behaviour, whether physical or non-physical, that is based on a person's sexuality or gender. It is when sexuality or gender is used as a weapon by boys or girls towards other boys or girls - although it is more commonly directed at girls. It can be carried out to a person's face, behind their back or through the use of technology."[78]

Workplace bullying

Main article: Workplace bullying

The Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute defines workplace bullying as "repeated, health-harming mistreatment, verbal abuse, or conduct which is threatening, humiliating, intimidating, or sabotage that interferes with work, or some combination of the three".[79] Statistics show that bullying is 3 times as prevalent as illegal discrimination and at least 1,600 times as prevalent as workplace violence.[citation needed] Statistics also show that while only one employee in every 10,000 becomes a target of workplace violence, one in six experiences bullying at work. Bullying is a little more common than sexual harassment but not verbal abuse which occurs more than bullying.[citation needed]

Unlike the more physical form of school bullying, workplace bullying often takes place within the established rules and policies of the organization and society. Such actions are not necessarily illegal and may not even be against a firm's regulations; however, the damage to the targeted employee and to workplace morale is obvious.[citation needed]

In academia

Main article: Bullying in academia

Bullying in academia is workplace bullying of scholars and staff in academia, especially places of higher education such as colleges and universities. It is believed[by whom?] to be common, although has not received as much attention from researchers as bullying in some other contexts.[80]

In blue collar jobs

Bullying has been identified[by whom?] as prominent in blue collar jobs including on oil rigs and in mechanic shops and machine shops. It is thought that intimidation and fear of retribution cause decreased incident reports. In industry sectors dominated by males, typically of little education, where disclosure of incidents are seen as effeminate, reporting in the socioeconomic and cultural milieu of such industries would likely lead to a vicious circle. This is often used[by whom?] in combination with manipulation and coercion of facts to gain favour among higher-ranking administrators.[81]

In information technology

A culture of bullying is common in information technology (IT), leading to high sickness rates, low morale, poor productivity, and high staff-turnover.[82] Deadline-driven project work and stressed-out managers take their toll on IT workers.[83]

In medicine

Main article: Bullying in medicine

Bullying in the medical profession is common,[citation needed] particularly of student or trainee doctors and of nurses. It is thought[by whom?] that this is at least in part an outcome of conservative traditional hierarchical structures and teaching methods in the medical profession, which may result in a bullying cycle.

In nursing

Main article: Bullying in nursing

Even though The American Nurses Association believes that all nursing personnel have the right to work in safe, non-abusive environments, bullying has been identified as being particularly prevalent[quantify] in the nursing profession although the reasons are not clear. It is thought[by whom?] that relational aggression (psychological aspects of bullying such as gossipping and intimidation) are relevant. Relational aggression has been studied amongst girls but not so much amongst adult women.[83][84]

In other areas

As the verb to bully is defined as simply "forcing one's way aggressively or by intimidation", the term may generally apply to any life experience where one is motivated primarily by intimidation instead of by more positive goals such as mutually shared interests and benefits. As such, any figure of authority or power which may use intimidation as a primary means of motivating others, such as a neighborhood "protection racket don", a national dictator, a childhood ring-leader, a terrorist, a terrorist organization, or even a ruthless business CEO, could rightfully be referred to as a bully. According to psychologist Pauline Rennie-Peyton, we each face the possibility of being bullied in any phase of our lives.[85]

The author Ben Shapiro claims that liberals employ bullying to intimidate and silence their conservative opponents in an ongoing culture war.[86]


Bullying prevention is the collective effort to prevent, reduce, and stop bullying. Many campaigns and events are designated to bullying prevention throughout the world. Bullying prevention campaign and events include (but are not limited to): Anti-Bullying Day, Anti-Bullying Week, International Day of Pink, International STAND UP to Bullying Day, and National Bullying Prevention Month.

In schools

School connectedness is the positive relationship between students, teachers, administrators, and educational support professionals. Studies have shown that, bullying programs set up in schools with the help and engagements of staffs and faculty have shown to reduce peer victimization and bullying.[87] Incidence of bullying is noticeably reduced when the students themselves disapprove of bullying.[88]

Research indicates that methods such as "increasing awareness, instituting zero tolerance for fighting, or placing troubled students in the same group or classroom" are ineffective in reducing bullying while other measures, including increasing empathy for victims, adopting a program with a "whole school" approach which includes all teachers, students, and parents, and student-led anti-bullying efforts, have shown significant progress and success.[10]

A review of all research regarding anti-bullying efforts in schools summarizes the most successful ways:[89]

See also


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Further reading

External links