In Bullying Definitions, Bullying Facts

The Physical Bullying Definition

Physical Bullying Definition

Joe is a middle school student who is smaller in stature than his peers. Paul is also in middle school. He is bigger and stronger than Joe. He also comes from a home where violence is present on a daily basis. Joe has been bullied for months by Paul. At first, Paul called the smaller boy names. He then started stealing his pens. Then Joe received angry threats of violence. Now, Paul trips Joe when he walks by on the playground or shoves him in the hallway. In the near future, if the situation is allowed to escalate, Paul will likely physically attack Joe, causing serious injuries. While this is a fictional story, it is similar to so many real stories of youth being the victim of physical bullying. Here are some physical bullying facts and a physical bullying definition parents, teachers, and school administrators should be familiar with.

Physical Bullying Facts

Physical bullying is a form of bullying that involves some sort of violence against another person. This is not necessarily by getting into a physical altercation with them. It can also include property damage. There are several ways bullies use to physically bully another person. Some of these include:

  • Fighting
  • Pushing
  • Practical jokes
  • Stealing
  • Sexual harassment.
  • Tripping
  • Spitting
  • Destroying property

These are only considered to be part of the physical bullying definition if there is repetition and an intention to hurt, embarrass, or intimidate the other person. Physical bullying also often includes an imbalance of power. In the example above, Joe was smaller in stature than Paul. This gave him the upper hand in physical altercations. However, Paul could also be a social status or peer group that feels superior. This is especially true in racial, gender, and LGBT bullying.

Physical Bullying Statistics

All bullying occurs most often in middle school and tapers off in high school. It is estimated that approximately 40% of middle school students report that they have been bullied. In high school, this number drops to about 20%. As far as bullying that qualifies as physical under the physical bullying definition above, males are more often the bullies in physical bullying. A history of family violence is a very strong indicator that a student will exhibit bullying behavior. Statistically, the saying “hurt people hurt people” is true. It is estimated that an astonishing 97% of bullies are the bully in some situations and the victim in others. Typically, physical bullying is the third most common form of bullying following verbal and social.

Other Types of Bullying

It is rare that physical abuse is the first form of bullying in any situation. As in the example above, Joe was called names and threatened before it escalated to physical violence. This is often the case with physical bullying. Cyberbullying, verbal assaults, and other forms of bullying might eventually lead to physical bullying. Another example of this might be a “crush” that develops online but becomes more and more intense in the real world. This can very quickly turns to violence towards the victim or other people in their lives such as a sibling or lover.

Sexual Harassment or Assault

It is not surprising that, according to physical bullying statistics, students who bully are more likely to be physically aggressive sexually with their partners as adults. They are also more likely to sexually harass their co-workers or peers. Sexual harassment and assault can fall under the physical bullying definition if it is a repeated offense. In sexual harassment and sexual assault cases, this is often, but not always, a male assaulting or harassing a female to try to establish dominance over her. Often, the bully will accuse the victim of sending mix signals in sexual harassment or assault situations. They will try to place blame on the victim if they can. Students who are victims of such abuse should be assured that the attacks were not their fault. It is extremely important that all students know that no unwanted sexual comments or actions are acceptable, ever. This is true whether the victim is the same or opposite gender. Parents, teachers, and administrators should always make that perfectly clear to students.

Racial, Gender, and LGBT Bullying

Some forms of physical bullying are targeted at certain groups. This might include racial groups, gender groups, or LGBT students. Often, physical bullying for these groups of people is a form of trying to intimidate to establish dominance. In the 20th century, when the schools in the United States were racially integrated, minorities often became the victims of racial bullying. Some of these cases had tragic endings. Today, this is more often happening with LGBT students. Gender bullying can often occur when students are not equally balanced in gender. The group in the majority or that feels superior may do things that embarrass these groups of people. They might steal property. To keep bullying at bay, it is a crucial policy for teachers and administrator to insist that students respect the racial, gender, and sexual identity of others.

Signs of Physical Bullying

Not all bullying is as easily seen as physical bullying. However, because the physical bullying definition includes bodily damage and property damage, it is more often noticed than other forms of bullying. Often, the victim will have visible damage to their bodies or property. Some of the signs that parents, teachers, and school administrators can look for to see if their student is being bullied are:

  • Unexplainable bruises and cuts
  • Mood swings
  • Damaged or missing possessions
  • Fear or dislike of school
  • Drop in academic performance
  • Skipping
  • Unexplained and sudden dislike for extracurricular activities
  • Depressions
  • Withdrawing
  • Low self-esteem
  • Talking about violence against others


In some cases, when victims feel helpless to stop the bullying, they may decide to take matters into their own hands. This leads to extreme act of violence that hurt the bully, the victim, their families, and their communities. This is something teachers, administrators, and parents should prevent. It is important that adults do everything they can to stop the bullying. Children need to feel safe. Adults who are responsible for them need to do everything they can to make sure they feel safe. This might include disciplining, educating, and if necessary, separating bullies. It should also include teaching victims how to cope with bullies and the emotions they will experience.

If You Suspect Your Child is Being Physically Bullied

Explain that the bullying is not their fault. Do not encourage the victim to retaliate or fight back as this can make the situation worse. Find out details about when, how, and where the bullying is taking place and take the information to teachers and school administrators. The victim should try to avoid the bully and not give them a reaction. Talk to them about how they are feeling. Help them find ways to cope with these feelings while doing what you can to stop the bullying.

If You Suspect Your Child is Bullying

Talk to them about their behavior and explain why it is unacceptable. If the bully continues to disrespect others, it may become necessary to separate them from other students. Do not be afraid to get help if necessary. Also, remember that bullies are often the victim in other areas of their lives. While this is not always the case, they might be experiencing violence from a sibling, a peer, a parent, or other person in their life. Talk to them about this and see if they are feeling bullied from someone else.

Programs for Schools that Focus on Bullying

Many schools are taking the initiative when it comes to educating their students about bullying. The message is that bullying is not okay, and it should be reported to an adult. Some of the ways teachers and schools administrators are working to decrease bullying in their schools are by having motivational speakers, handing out informational worksheets for students and parents, and having presentations. One presentation for younger students involves puppets that they can interact with. For older students, actors or drama students can perform a play showing a bullying situation and suggesting ways to respond to them.

Bullying in any form can affect the whole community. Physical bullying is often the worse form for other students to witness. Whether or not your child is being bullied or bullying another student, you should talk to your children about physical bullying.

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