What Makes a Child A Bully, or a Victim of Bullying?


Bullying is a social problem mostly affecting children, especially those belonging to minority groups in various social contexts. Whatever catalyzes the bullying behavior, its effects are mainly negative and colossal and may affect the social, physical, cognitive and psychological well-being of a person throughout a person’s life.

In fact, some may bully others just for fun, not knowing the life-long effects this may elicit. This informs the importance of instilling emotional development in our children, which is critical in developing important virtues, such as empathy, which is the ability to understand or associate with the feelings of others. Indeed, if one understands how bullying hurts, then it’s possible that’s/he would not engage in bullying and would stand firm against it. In any case, we are all born with an innate ability to know it when we cause pain to others. Why then do some children become bullies? What makes some children become victims of bullies?

What makes a child a bully?

There are various reasons why children bully others. They include:

  • Solicit for popularity and social status

The scramble for recognition as the mighty in the classroom, around the school or neighborhood necessitates some kids to become bullies. A child or a group of them will seek to use bullying as a way to manifest or sustain some status in the school, home or the neighborhood among other children.  They will intimidate anyone who tries to challenge their influence.

  • Peer pressure

Humans are social creatures by nature, which makes people do weird things to fit into a group. For children, the lack of mastery of principles and values makes them subject to doing anything without question just to belong. In fact, many children want to belong to the group of the ‘strong’ which feels safer. For that, they will bully a person when asked to, especially if it’s the only ticket to preserve their membership to the gang.

  • Payback for having to be a victim

Some children become bullies as a means of retaliation. A child who is bullied today due to his weaker status today might bully his bully in the future if s/he gains a physique that surpasses his bully as revenge. Meanwhile, a victim of bullying might become a bully in other areas where s/he has been influenced just for personal satisfaction. These children sometimes feel justified and relieved after humiliating others weaker than themselves.

  • Overprotective parents/teachers

Teachers and parents sometimes have a higher affinity and preference for some children. They will not punish or confront a child even after witnessing them in the wrong. Gradually, such a child feels more deserving, worthy and justifiable to the others. S/he will harass others aware that s/he has the teacher’s or parent’s protection. Eventually, s/he becomes a bully.

  • Mental health problem  

Stress and depression are some critical causes of aggressive behaviors. Some children with mental health are likely to get easily irritated, impatient and unsociable. Due to their mental status, some lack empathy and even feel satisfied in the pain or agony of others.

  • Parental neglect

Lack of attention from the parents and teachers is an essential cause of negative behavioral tendencies, such as bullying behaviors. It’s natural for a child to need love from adults, especially after observing other cared kids. In absence of it, a kid may feel invisible. S/he is then prompted to develop negative behaviors including aggression towards others. Such a child is likely to develop into a bully.

  • Stereotypes and prejudices

Some children are looked down upon for being different, which might cause them to be victims of stereotypes. This is a common phenomenon for children from minority groups, such as black children in a school where the majority are whites.  In response, these child builds a defense mechanism, which might include intimidating/bullying others to discourage them from attacking them with stereotypes or unprincipled prejudices.

What makes children victims of bullying?

While there are no justified reasons for bullying, it’s, however, is likely for some students/children to be bullied as compared to others. Children might be victims for a variety of reasons, such as:

  •  Isolation

A child who is always in solitude and who does not socialize much with others is likely to be bullied. Often, withdrawn children are seen as odd ones out, and are likely to attract the attention of teasers at school or within the neighborhood.

  • Perceived distinctive appearance

Being perceived as ‘different’ is also a probable cause of being a target of bullies. For instance, a child who cries in a ‘funny’ way will attract bullies who will always want to pinch him/her and hear him/her cry. Similarly, children who stand out as different, such as with learning disabilities, children with special talents, small in stature and those from cultural, ethnic or religious minorities may easily be common targets of bullies.

  • Insecure personality

Appear passive, submissive and anxious makes one a weak target for harassment. Often, emotionally weak and insecure children may cry frequently or easily even at the slightest fright. This is often seen among new students in their first days in a new school and who are struggling to acclimate. In such moments, such children lack assertiveness, which at a glance, serves as a clue to bullies that they are perfect victims for bullying.

  • Illnesses or disabilities

Children with special needs or illnesses are often victims of bullying. Due to their inability to defend themselves, these kids become easy prey to bullies who may tease them and run away aware that they are incapable of defending themselves adequately.  Children with autism are also common victims of bullies and though they may not understand it, they may suffer terrific injuries in the hands of bullies. Other common targets include kids with food allergies and asthmatic kids.

What to do:

It remains a priority to protect any child from bullying and its effects. It’s important to take critical steps such as instilling emotional skills and creating awareness among our children about what bullying is and that it is wrong. Adults should always seek to ensure every wrong is criticized, rather than appraised. Making, labeling bullying a taboo and erecting strict laws and policies against might discourage anyone who is tempted to perpetrate the behavior.  StopBulying.gov provides essential insights on how to respond to the various types of bullying.

Last Updated on September 22, 2021