More on Bullying: What It Means For Bullies Themselves

Bullying has been a high-profile issue in the media lately, but it’s been on the radars of therapists, counselors, and psychologists for far longer. A number of studies have been published over the last few years that examine the consequences of bullying not just for bullying victims, but also for the bullies themselves. While children who bully seem to be those in control of the bully-victim relationship, it’s often a result of poor relationships and problems in other areas of that child’s life. One 2008 study showed that kids whose parents are “demanding, directive and unresponsive” are the most likely to enact bullying toward others. Another study from that same year found that students who bully their classmates are far more likely to have strained relationships with parents, siblings and even their own friends.

The consequences of bullying are well-established and are, interestingly, very similar for both bullies and victims of bullying. Both are far more likely to need to find a therapist in their teen and adult years, as both run a high risk of depression, anxiety, and other psychological and emotional struggles later in life. Cyber-bullying is the single exception to this: in the case of cyber-bullies, victims are at higher risk of depression, but perpetrators are not. The anonymity of the internet may make bullies feel safer in their behavior, and make victims feel more isolated and alone. Without intervention and support, bullies are likely to become anti-social as adults, too.

In fact, even before bullying behavior surfaces, both bullies and victims have something else in common: they’re likely to be students who have particularly poor problem-solving skills, especially in social situations. Often, victims of bullying go on to target other vulnerable students in an effort to feel less victimized themselves. The tragedy of this is that kids on both side of the bullying aren’t getting the help they need. Those students who inflict distress on others rarely do so for the sake of being mean; they’re reacting from a place of fear themselves because their own emotional, social, and psychological needs aren’t being met. And those students who are victims of bullying often go unnoticed until the behavior results in something tragic. More awareness and support are necessary if we are to create truly safe environments for students, both in school and out.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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  • mary collins

    October 8th, 2010 at 10:48 AM

    all this finding out is great but it will be of no use if its not well-understood by school and if appropriate measures are not taken.a child who bullies another does not need to be punished or have his parents called but needs to be counselled.this will probably lead to them discovering a problem at the bully’s home which is in turn making the bully a bully in the first place.this can then be communicated to the parents so that a remedial action is taken.

  • Anna kate

    October 8th, 2010 at 5:34 PM

    So my quaestion is if bullies and victims start out at the beginning with some of the very same issues, then how do some people end up being the bullies and others end up getting pushed around? I am very curious about how this manifests and how one person will be pushed in one direction and the other will go the completely opposite way. That is so interesting!


    October 9th, 2010 at 10:09 AM

    Well Anna, it depends on the person’s psyche doesnt it? Not all people are the same and while some are extroverts others are just the opposite!

  • Eliza

    October 9th, 2010 at 4:39 PM

    I have a niece who has been the vidtim of bullying at school. I have a very hard time feeling any compassion for someone who is a bully. I know that may be wrong, but come on! No one should be made to feel as bad about themselves as this little group at her school has made my niece feel about herself. It’s kind of like karma I guess- what goes around comes around. So if the bullies end up a little sad and depressed then maybe that is just them getting a taste of their own medicine. I do not advocate bullying back but maybe sometimes this gives them a feel for what is like to be in that other person’s shoes.

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