The Psychology Behind Bullying

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Across the United States, bullying is affecting thousands of teenagers. All throughout the country, children are being emotionally and physically abused, leaving the victims with fear and mental health issues. Constantly parents hear of children taking their own lives because of cyber bullying from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and other popular social media applications. With bullying present in the lives of many children, there are some serious questions that arise from parents. Why do some children bully others in the first place? What is behind the psychology of bullying? What happens to the victims of bullying? Continue reading this article for more information on the psychology behind bullying from the side of the perpetrator as well as the victim.

A Word from a Professional About Bullying

An interview about children and the psychology of bullying was done with Cory Brosch, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and Program Director at Clear Recovery Center in Redondo Beach, CA. He specializes in addiction treatment including substance abuse as well as gaming technology. Brosch had this to say about bullies:

“Often times, bullies have been or are bullied themselves. Some children feel a need for power and control. A way for them to have a hold of that authority is through bullying other children their age. When a child bullies another child, he or she feels more powerful.”

Being the Bully

 Cory went on to talk about some signs to notice if you suspect your child might be a bully. Cory commented:

“If you suspect your child is a bully, some bullying behavior to look for is aggressiveness. Some children tend to display potently oppositional and defiant behavior and are quick-tempered. Look to see if your child has difficulty recognizing others’ feelings. Some bullies fall short on their capability to grasp and speak upon their own or others’ feelings. There may be a correlation between a lack of empathy and bullying.”

Being Bullied

He went on to talk about signs to notice with children when you suspect your child might be getting bullied:

“Pay close attention to what your children say as well as their behavior. If they constantly complain about going to school and are non-descriptive about their school day, bullying can be a factor. There may be a change in their eating habits due to anxiety and difficulty sleeping. A decline in grades and a loss of friends can be outcomes of being bullied. It is important to have a sit-down conversation with your children. If you feel uncomfortable talking about bullying with your children, there are tools online that can provide helpful ways to ease the conversation.”

Whether your child is a bully or is being bullied, it is important to talk with your children. A conversation about bullying and the psychology behind it can be an uncomfortable topic, but it is important to have an open discussion with your children to prevent future and potential danger.

Why Do Some Children Bully Others?

There is no specific cause for children turning to bullying. Children bully for different reasons; however, the majority of bullies share a main purpose for emotionally and physical abusing others. One of the main reasons children bully can derive and spark off from the lack of attention at home and in their personal life. Some children’s ways of reaching out to people is by being defiant and hurting others. Some other reasons can include a few of the following:

Family Life

At home, some children are surrounded in hostile environments. They observe their parents or siblings engage in bullying behavior. This bullying behavior includes physical and verbal abuse, aggressiveness, and consistent violence.

Peer Pressure

At times, children’s friends can influence and promote a child into bullying. Friends can have a huge impact on the choices a child makes.


A great number of the media including tv shows, movies, and video games promote violent behavior. Some children can register and deem an aggressive manner as normal conduct.

When cyber or any form of bullying happen, parents’ initial reaction is to tend to the victim, which is a normal response. What about the bully? Besides resulting to punishments and consequences, do people look into the reasons for a child that feels the need to bully in the first place? By understanding some fundamental purposes of a bully’s background, there can be help towards bullies to deal with some issues they may be going through.

The Victim of Bullying

When a child experiences bullying either though cyber bullying or in person, there is crucial emotional and physical damage caused to him or her. As well as harmful physical damage, constant verbal abuse towards a child can lead him or her to develop mental health issues, engage in self-harm, or even substance abuse. Over time, the long-term physiological effects are developed from the short-term effects of a child being constantly bullied. Some underlying factors for being targeted can include some of the following:

  • Body shape, including height, weight, and structure.
  • Disabilities.
  • Race.
  • Sexual orientation.
  • Individuality, including intelligence and creativeness.
  • Lack of social skills resulting into little to no friends.

According to The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, some studies have demonstrated that anyone who has either been bullied or was a bully are at a higher risk for depression. As mentioned before, when children experience forms of bullying, they are at a higher risk for developing long term mental and physical health issues. Without proper mental health treatment and support systems and groups, these issues can worsen and result into heartbreaking events no child should ever have to encounter. Some risks children who are bullied can include some of the following:

  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Chronic depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Poor health.
  • Higher risk of suicide.
  • Self-destructive behavior, which includes self-harm.
  • Difficulty forming trust, friendships, and relationships.
  • Substance abuse.

Talk to Your Children About Bullying

It is important that you ask and listen to your children about their school and personal life. Whether their day was good or bad, encourage your children to tell you about what occurred. If your child does tell you about being physically or verbally abused by a bully, listen attentively and assure your child that he or she has support from you. Due to embarrassment, children can be hesitant to speak upon bullying. They are afraid of parental’ reactions. Even just discussing the psychology behind bullying at a young age can be a prevention tool. If you suspect your child might be a bully, it is also crucial that you talk to them on the dangers bullying imposes on others. There is medical assistance and support groups that can help children who are or have been bullied.

Last Updated on January 19, 2023

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