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Bullying: A Look at the Participants in a Bullying Event

Updated on February 5, 2017
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Kim is licensed in mental health and addiction counseling. Her education is in business, counseling, and health administration.

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Bullying Defined

Psychologists define bullying as “a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort.” The injury can be physical, verbal or emotional, and includes cyber-bullying. As in any other form of assault, the victim typically does not provoke or cause the attack, although there is a small sub-group of victims, known as victim-bullies, who do elicit strong negative reactions from others. Bullying events are not peer conflicts, because of an imbalance of power. Conflict resolution procedures or groups with victims and bullies are not appropriate responses to bullying events.

Participants in a Bullying Event

We usually think of bullying as involving only the victim and the bully, but studies about bullying reveal that there are far more participants in a bullying event. There are those who actively participate with the bully in the bullying behaviors. There are some who support the bully or who like bullying, but do not actively participate in a particular bullying event. There are some who watch a bullying event without participating, but without taking a stand against it either. Some dislike bullying and want to stop it, but don't. Finally, there are some who dislike bullying and who do make an effort to stop the bullying or help the victim. Bullying interventions can be aimed at letting "innocent bystanders" recognize that their passive participation in the events enable bullying to continue, and that taking appropriate action can help foster an environment that does not allow bullying to flourish.

Research Findings

• Victim-bullies, a small sub-group of victims, engage in bullying as both victims and bullies, more often than their peers.

• Boys clearly bully others more than girls.

• 50% of girls report being bullied by boys

• While bullying is a greater problem with boys, it is a problem with girls as well.

• Boys tend to be more physical and overt.

• Girls typically use more subtle forms of bullying

• Covert bullying can be as harmful and distressing as more direct and open attacks.

• Bullying by girls typically involves exclusion, shunning, spreading rumors, manipulating friendships, and ridicule.

• Girl bullying can also include physical forms of bullying.

• Verbal bullying is the most common type of bullying by both boys and girls.

• Girls are more likely than boys to use social exclusion.

• Witnesses to bullying are as harmed, or even more harmed by bullying than the bullies or victims themselves.

• Girls report seeing more bullying than boys.

• Witnessing bullying evokes memories of past bullying, a form of re-experiencing the event.

• Witnessing bullying evokes fears of being bullied (again) in the future.

• Witnessing bullying evokes guilt for not intervening or defending the victim.

Characteristics of Students Likely to be Victims

Cautious, sensitive, quiet, withdrawn, shy

Anxious, insecure, unhappy, low self-esteem

Depressed and engage in suicidal ideation much more often than peers

Often do not have a single good friend and relate better to adults than peers.

(Boys tend to be physically weaker than their peers.)


Characteristics of Students Who Bully

Strong need for domination and control, and to get their own way

Impulsive and easily angered

Defiant and aggressive toward adults, including parents and teachers

Lack of empathy for victims

(Boys tend to be physically stronger than other boys.)

Additional Characteristices of Victim-Bullies

Reading and writing problems

ADHD characteristics (attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder)

Frequently annoys or bothers others 

Possible Warning Signs

Torn, damaged or missing clothes, books or other belongings

Unexplained cuts, bruises and scratches

Few or no friends to spend time with

Avoid school or riding the bus.

Avoid walking to and from school, or taking longer routes than needed

Loss of interest in school or a sudden drop in grades

Complains of headaches, stomach aches and other physical ailments

Sad, moody, teary and depressed at home

Trouble sleeping and frequent bad dreams

Loss of appetite

Appears anxious

Low self esteem

What To Do

Talk with your child. Tell them you’re concerned and would like to help. .

Ask some direct questions about bullying

Ask subtle questions about who their friends are, where they sit in school and on the bus.

Talk to the teacher about how your child interacts and behaves at school.

Talk to the guidance counselor and principal if needed for additional information.

If you learn that your child is being bullied, take action

If you don’t suspect your child is being bullied but he or she does show some warning signs, still discuss your concerns with a school counselor, as these may be signs of other serious problems.

Profile of a Bully

In a feature article published by the American Psychological Association, "Bullying: What Parents, Teachers Can Do to Stop It," (2010) bullying expert Susan Swearer, Ph.D expresses a reluctance to “profile” a bully and maintains that, “If the conditions in the environment are supportive of bullying, then almost anyone can bully." She looks at the complex dynamics between bullying and victimization, and has identified that students who are bullied at home by siblings or relatives are more likely to bully at school. She points out that schools, families and communities that do not intervene and stop the bullying, are teaching students that they can get what they want by bullying. This response reinforces bullying behaviors, and allows bullying to progress into adulthood. She considers it critical to intervene during the school years.


American Psychological Association. (2010). Bullying: What parents, teachers can do to stop it. Retrieved from

Additional Resources

Americal Psychological Association>Topics>Bullying:

© 2010 Kim Harris


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    • kimh039 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Harris 

      7 years ago

      Oh. I see. Thanks.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      It was announced in this week's Hub Pages Weekly where you can read the rules and click on the official voting form for a list of "awards" that you can make nominations for. Or you can go directly to the voting page (you can only submit once so its best to know who you're nominating for what before clicking on your actual vote). Winners will be announced Fri. 8/5 in a special video blog post.

    • kimh039 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Harris 

      7 years ago

      Wow. Thanks Happyboomernurse! I didn't know there was such an award or that we could nominate for it!!! I'll have to find where that is. I really appreciate your support and joining forces for a good cause. Thank you.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      Am nominating this for "Most Useful Hub" in the Hubbie Awards because this is such a comprehensive hub about bullying and bullying is such a pervasive problem in our society. Anyone who has current issues regarding bullying, or knows someone who is being bullied and wants to learn how to help them would benefit from reading it.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      Thanks so much. I'm truly honored and touched.

    • kimh039 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Harris 

      7 years ago

      Thanks Happyboomernurse. I also added a link to your memoir hub about bullies. Your personal experiences with bullying adds a refreshing new dimension to this hub, and makes it "real." Your courage in sharing about your experience is admirable.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      Wow, this is such an excellent, comprehensive resource for parents who suspect their child is a bully or is the victim of a bully. I also like the way you addressed the fact that the bystanders are affected by witnessing bullying. Am rating this hub up, useful and awesome. Am also adding a link to it from my memoir hub about bullies young and old.

    • kimh039 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Harris 

      7 years ago

      Absolutely, we all deal with bullies in the workplace! I saw a perfect example of a woman standing up to a bully when I was on vacation. This big man was throwing a girl (a girfriend's child) into the pool in spite of the fact that she was visible upset. A woman who was at the pool with her grandchild walked up to him and explained that what he was doing was cruel. And she did it in the most loving and caring way! It was like she was teaching him something he didn't know. I was bothered because I felt really uncomfortable observing the interactions, but didn't know how to respond! Now I do. Thanks for your kind comments RNMSN. I too am convinced, it must be all your fault:)

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 

      7 years ago from Tucson, Az

      I put the bully circle on my desktop Kim

      it is NOT only kids at risk, I am getting better at recognizing them and their sadistic ways but am not as confident as I would like to be/takes hard work to overcome a lifetime of feeling that whatever happens MUST BE all my fault

      you kim, are a fantastically gifted service oriented person....just in case you did not know that :) love and many thanks for another great hub...dont know how I missed it but glad I found it just when I needed it the most!

      barbara b

    • kimh039 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Harris 

      7 years ago

      I don't watch office, Murray, but in the drawing above of the bullying event there's only 1 of 6 observers to a bullying event who actually stands up for the bully. One other observer thinks he/she should stand up for the victim, but doesn't. The others don't even think they should. Thanks for reading and commenting Murray.

    • Murray G Maclagan profile image

      Murray G Maclagan 

      7 years ago from The Hood - North Kamloops, BC Canada

      I have a unique view of bullying, in my experience, it is in fact a reflection of The Peter Principle, if you watch the popular show, The Office, Michael Scott & Dwight are acting like bullies to most of the other staff, and only Toby Flenderson is trying to stop them. To me, people become victims of bullying when their co-workers, friends and family don't stand up to the bullies for the victims. We tend to put the pressure on the victim, and blame them for becoming depressed or anti-social, when in fact if their peers had stood up for them, the victims would have been strong & confident.

      When a goose is unable to fly, 2 other geese follow it to the ground & stay with the sick or injured bird until it can fly or it succumbs, if only humans had such loyal wingmen & wingwomen, then we would all be flying better together!

    • kimh039 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Harris 

      8 years ago

      I'm glad you weren't bullied at school too! Thanks for stopping by to read and comment tonymac. appreciate it.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      I was never seriously bulloied at school, for which I am really grateful. Bullying is such a nasty and unnecessary thing. Bullies need to be stopped. This Hub is very useful in raising the issues involved and pointing the way to dealing with bullying. Thanks.

      Love and peace


    • kimh039 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Harris 

      8 years ago

      I'm sorry to hear that Nell - about school and here. You're the second person I've heard of on here that was bullied! There was an article in the paper recently about a bully on the football team who bullied the other players......I think I'll see if I can find that and link it here, cause it really went into detail about what that was like. anyway. thanks for stopping to read, rate and comment Nell. appreciate it.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      8 years ago from England

      Hi, I remember being bullied so badly at school that I did not want to go. I still remember it when i am feeling vulnerable. recently it happened to me on here, and I totally overreacted because it brought back so many memories. the funny thing is that in real life I can now stick up for myself really well, but on here because I did not know how to get back at him, I fell to pieces! but it is resolved now. My son was also bullied, but I was up that school as quickly as possible.I did not want him to go through bullying like I did. rated up great hub. Nell

    • kimh039 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Harris 

      8 years ago

      vern - I love it when people say they are going to use my hubs in their classes/groups! Let me know how it goes. Thanks for stopping by to comment.

    • kimh039 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Harris 

      8 years ago

      billy - you brought up a good point about throwing in a few extra modern stressors! Your boys are lucky to have you looking out. Thanks for the comments billy.

    • vrbmft profile image

      Vernon Bradley 

      8 years ago from Yucaipa, California

      Good stuff here. I like the information, especially the bully circle. With any "issue" there are always dynamics, we all play a part. I think you said that! Anywho, when this comes up in my parenting class, I am going to run a copy of your blog for the participants. Much of the info on bullying seems too complicated to be useful. This is precise, but very very informative and useful. Thanks again.

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      8 years ago

      Kim a great hub on a very pressing problem. There was bullying when I was growing up and you dealt with it. It seemed to go in phases and you look back and some things weren't right as boys found their way. It does seem to have gotten a lot worse with gangs and drugs these days. Add in single parents and double working parents etc and kids don't get as much attention and guidance in many instances. I have two you boys and hope I can guide them as much as I can. It is something I will be very alert to. Them being bullied and them bullying. Again an awesome write up Kim about a very current and important topic for all parents.

    • kimh039 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Harris 

      8 years ago

      true that micky dee. thanks for noticing!

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      8 years ago

      There's a lot of bullying and lots of kinds of bullying! Great hub Kim!

    • kimh039 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Harris 

      8 years ago

      You're son is lucky you were so attentive, and knew what to do. Sometimes it's hard to keep your cool when you're the parent. Thanks for stopping to read and for sharing about your situation saddlerider1.

    • saddlerider1 profile image


      8 years ago

      I just dealt with a bullying situation at school with my 16 year old son, it took writing to the school board and eventually meeting up with the principal and vice, his teachers and the school counselor. It got corrected very quickly and their were a couple of expelled students on the block. It certainly affected my son's life and he was avoiding going to his classes and not telling us his parents, we found it all out second hand, we dealt with it swifty,his school like many others, have a zero tolerance for bullying, it stopped thank goodness and his marks improved as did his moral. Thanks for this wonderful hub, much appreciated. peace

    • kimh039 profile imageAUTHOR

      Kim Harris 

      8 years ago

      thanks valerie. It is getting a lot of attention. I think we understand it a lot better than we used to. Thanks for reading and commenting:)

    • valeriebelew profile image


      8 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

      Hello. I was bullied for years, and still bare the scars. I am happy that bullying is getting the attention that it is getting today; perhaps some other child can be spared the pain and after effects. Good hub. (: v


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