Why Do Kids Bully?
While a child may act out for a variety of reasons, the following factors are known to contribute to bullying behavior.4,23
Control and Power
Many students bully in an attempt to gain control over others or power within a peer group or social setting. Social dynamics within a school, neighborhood or community may reinforce such abuses of power.
Students often receive positive attention for their bullying. When bystanders laugh or participate in the bullying in other ways, the aggressive student receives social reinforcement for his or her bullying behavior. Thus, bystanders have an important role to play in addressing bullying and preventing it from reoccurring.
Inadequate or Ineffective Supervision
Bullying often occurs in settings where there is little adult supervision or when supervision strategies are ineffective. Schools and other youth programs should ensure that there is reasonable student to adult ratios in classrooms, play areas, hallways, lunchrooms and other areas. Supervising staff should be trained to recognize and intervene in all instances of peer aggression.
Indifferent Attitudes Toward Bullying
Adults’ attitudes toward peer aggression and bullying can have a profound effect on students’ perceptions of the behavior. When adults – through action or inaction – condone bullying, young people may mistakenly conclude that bullying is a normal part of growing up. Adults should always intervene when bullying is suspected and let young people know bullying behavior will not be tolerated.
Some bullying is motivated by actual prejudice or can be reinforced by prejudicial norms. Certain groups of students are more likely to be targets of bullying or prejudicial comments. These include students with disabilities, students who are obese and students who defy gender norms. Students who are not in the racial, ethnic or religious majority are also at greater risk of being targeted. It is important to know that this type of bullying can have legal ramifications for schools, if ignored.