To understand why bullying occurs, people also need to understand what makes a child or student in school a bully in the first place. This background is critical at solving and stopping the behavior. Bullies don’t just suddenly appear one day; they are often created by a combination of environment, culture, home life, group-think mentality, and personal experience. All of those factors combined can frequently lead to significant and complex perspectives that manifest with repetitive bullying behavior towards other students. The unique nature of one bully being different from another has been confirmed by multiple scientific studies into the causal factors that create bullies. Learn about the Bully!
Unfortunately, bullying has been lumped together in many basic prevention programs and attempts. While this approach may deal with the occasional low level problem, it often won’t catch more complicated cases, particularly involving those characters that actually serious thinking and planning into their activities versus just opportunistic bullying. As a result, schools that meet minimum criteria of having anti-bullying marketing and programs often miss the boat and still can have serious problems with bullies, to the point of a student victim committing suicide to get away from the attacks.
Types of Bullying Behavior
Bullying, whether in school or in other environments, often occurs in both predictable and uncommon patterns. The more predictable patterns include:
- Abuse in the form of verbal or physical attacks as well as written activities.
- Sexual harassment or sexually-oriented embarrassment.
- Discrimination or unwanted segregation of students based on their characteristics.
- Cyberbullying using some form of electronic or digital media.
Unpredictable or uncommon approaches are often the result of planning and intentional acts that take time to develop.
Not every negative child behavior constitutes bullying, however. There are some aspects that can easily confuse. These behaviors can be distressing, unwanted and unpleasant, but they are not bullying per se. Such situations often include:
- Mutual conflict- this often occurs when two or more students engage in an argument but there is no uneven power match involved. No one is outnumbered or ganged up on. And both sides want the engagement. The event is often singular and one-time in nature.
- Social rejection – While no one likes to be the odd person out, a general rejection or exclusion from a main group is not bullying per se.
As noted earlier, bully personas often vary and don’t follow a default template. Some bullies have multiple persona sets, often incorporating multiple causal factors. These personas include:
- Former bully victims – repeating the cycle of abuser and victim, former bully victims generally manifest after months or years of being bullied themselves. This usually happens when the former victim becomes strong enough to be bigger than a new victim. The frustration and anger comes out on a new victim versus the old bully. This is often done to regain a sense of power. This persona is one of the most common types of bullies that exist both in children and adults. The classroom is not the only environment such bullies manifest in.
- Popular-Aggressive bullies – These are personas that have a huge ego about their social status and need reaffirmation of that ego on a regular basis. Bullying provides a low-cost method of reaffirmation without losing critical support from groups and the majority of peers and followers. They often have a natural advantage of looks, size, or power over most peers, and their view on the world comes with a sense of entitlement that they are due attention and/or obedience by weaker peers. These bullies frequently are they type most likely to use physical violence or threats to intimidate a victim. Locker-pinning, knocking down books, and pushing are common acts.
- Relational or relationship bullies – These bullies often occur in some kind of relationship setting. The bully plays a part influencing the group as to whether a new student or new individual is accepted or picked up by followers. Where a victim is targeted, isolation or ostracizing is often used as a mental attack. Rarely does the bully use physical violence; the attack is emotional or verbal in most cases. These bullies take advantage of social gossip, cliques, labels, and insults to maintain power and leverage over victims. Maintaining popularity among the crowd as a whole is the most critical goal of the bully, and the victim is either seen as a means to that maintenance or a threat to it which must be eliminated.
- Serial bullies – These bullies are far more methodical in their approach, often incorporating planning and forward thinking in attacking victims. The approach can often involve activities that take time to develop, involve multiple actors, and can be complex in identifying who is the real cause of the attack. They often seem to be friendly and approachable to the victim, but the bully is in fact setting the victim up for a fall by gaining a close position and personal information. They are often known as the back-stabbing “friend” who turns out to be an attacker. Such personas utilize lying and manipulation frequently to arrive at goals, and they are regularly working on a new scheme, never being satisfied with just the last attack. Many victims feel helpless against such attackers, either not being able to convincingly identify them or being unable to defend against them.
- Group bullies – This persona relies on group power to maintain the attack. They will rarely attack alone, and if they do so it’s only with the threat of the group coming immediately. The victim is often threatened by being physical outnumbered and is disabled by multiple attacks from different directions. The distinct difference between this bully and a popular bully is that group bully is not the leader. He instead is a follower, exerting his own attempt at bullying behind the safety of the group. These characters are often cronies acting out a smaller level of attack under the protection of the group and the leader’s blessing. These types often make attacks worse because they don’t think through their actions and often push attacks far beyond what a leader would do.
- Indifferent bullies – A rare persona type, this bully has no empathy towards people or the victim. They are cold, ruthless and seem to attack without even any incentive. They are absolutely the worst category among bully types because they can often incorporate the critical thinking aspects of other personas with indifference added into the mix. Where many bullies will be restrained by their sense of wrong or right, indifferent bullies have no limitations whatsoever. Many serial killers exhibit the same traits in far more violent and depraved behaviors. The indifferent bully is often the first acting-out stage of a person with deep psychological problems leading to attacking others on a regular basis.
Bullies are unique individuals and do not follow one set template. Their persona and characteristics are often built and established from multiple causal factors, including home life and environment as well as how they were treated themselves in previous years. While some bully personas are easily reversible, others can be far more calculating and even dangerous, manifesting early signs of serious psychological issues harmful to others. Parents, schools and teachers all have to cooperate in monitoring and watching out for these issues to better understand how to prevent bullying in the first place.