What is bullying?

Also known as: bully, aggressive behavior.

Bullying is an intentional and aggressive behavior by a person that causes physical or emotional harm to the victim being bullied. It’s a common problem among school-age children (approximately half of school aged children have been bullied at some time) but can also occur among adults. Bullying may be physical or verbal. Boys tend to bully both sexes physically or with threats, while girls tend to bully girls, more often verbally. Online and email bullying occurs on social networking sites.


What causes bullying? 

A complex series of psychological and emotional problems play into bullying; most crave control/domination over others. Some children who bully may be bullied or abused at home for example, or are trying to compensate for other shortcomings in their lives. Bullies tend to choose as victims physically small, sensitive, passive children with few friends, or who are perceived to be different from the “in-crowd”, suffer from lack of self-esteem, are depressed or anxious, and whom are easily intimidated. Bullying is a “red flag” that a child needs help with controlling his/her emotions (children who bully have frequently been bullied themselves).


What are the symptoms of bullying? 

For bullying to occur, the action must be aggressive, intentional and done in a repeated fashion. They push or hit other children, may be verbally degrading and have little concern for the feelings of others. As they are frequent big, strong and supported by friends they can easily cause physical harm and long term emotional problems (this can result in long term problems for both the bully and the bullied). Victims may not tell parents about being victimized. Changes in sleep patterns, unexplained bruises, frequent crying, and school avoidance are some warning signs/symptoms of being bullied. Small children may complain of feeling sick, or having a sore throat or stomach, to avoid going to school.


What are bullying care options? 

Bullies look for easy targets; help your child respond in a self-assured way, be confident, stand up straight, confront the bully with eye to eye contact and speak firmly. Encourage your child to talk to you (tell a teacher) and be involved and supportive of your child. Stopping bullying take a community effort involving parents, teachers and the children themselves. Adults need to recognize bullying and enforce discipline to help stop it. Children need to be educated about bullying and learn proper steps to address it.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 1/29/2019 3:21:13 PM

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