Why Do Kids Bully? Here’s What We Know

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“Why do kids bully?” is a multifaceted question. Kids who bully often believe that bullying will help them be accepted by peers. Furthermore, they lash out against others to boost their own sense of self-worth and social standing.

And the victims of bullying are not just the kids being bullied. Rather, the psychology of bullying is negative in both directions, causing lasting damage to the innocent kid being bullied and to the bully as well. The long term effects of bullying include damage to self-esteem on both sides of the coin. Thus, healing the impact of bullying means healing everyone involved.

Furthermore, bullying appears to be connected to other dangerous behavioral patterns. For example, research links bullying with substance use disorder. Studies show that middle and high school students involved in bullying are more likely to vape or smoke nicotine products, drink alcohol, and abuse marijuana. There is also a connection between bullying and suicide.

There’s another answer to the question “Why do kids bully?” Ultimately, bullying may be an indicator that a child or teen is suffering from anxiety, depression, or another mental health disorder. Therefore, kids who bully may require assessment, counseling, and possibly mental health treatment. And victims of bullies may also require additional support from a mental health professional.

Newport Academy’s Ted Guastello on Teen Bullying

On the first day of Bullying Awareness Month 2019, Ted Guastello, CATC, RAS, Vice President of Operations for Newport Academy, appeared on CBSN Los Angeles to discuss the issue of teen bullying. Ted spoke in the wake of recent bullying attacks against teenage victims, and offered ways to understand and address bullying.

Types of Bullying Behavior

Among children and teens, bullying tends to include the following behaviors:

  1. Persistent teasing, mean comments, making fun of physical traits
  2. Spreading rumors and talking behind a person’s back
  3. Excluding another child from a group activity on purpose
  4. Threatening someone with violence and future retribution
  5. Raising one’s voice or screaming, as a form of intimidation
  6. Physical assaults, including hitting, forced submission, and knocking down
  7. Cyberbullying, including negative texting, unwanted content, and fake profiles.

The Long-Term Negative Effects of Bullying

Being bullied can lead to devastating consequences for kids. Whether victims are in kindergarten or grade school, preteens or teenagers, the long term effects of bullying are typically painful and unrelenting. Kids who are bullied often feel

  • Ostracized, alienated, like an outcast
  • Unpopular, isolated, utterly alone
  • Depressed, overwhelmed,
  • Persistently sad and hopeless
  • Physically unwell, including headaches, stomachaches, and other symptoms
  • Suicidal, resulting in thoughts of hurting oneself or others.

In fact, the link between bullying and suicide is a national crisis. Experts have uncovered the connection between bullying and school shootings.

Why do kids bully

October Is National Bullying Prevention Month 

Bullying Awareness Month, also known as National Bullying Prevention Month, is designed to raise bullying awareness and provide tools for everyone involved. Moreover, Every October, parents and kids around the world unite in a campaign to keep kids of all ages safe from bullying.

The bullying awareness campaign focuses on the following and more:

  1. Taking proactive steps at the local level to promote safety
  2. Offering educational tools about bullying prevention techniques
  3. Using news media, social media, and print resources to share content
  4. Promoting dialogue between parents and kids on bullying awareness and prevention
  5. Highlighting the positive thematic impact of kindness, acceptance, and inclusion.

How can individuals make a difference? If bullying is an issue in your community, you can take the following steps:

Why do kids bully

How to Increase Bullying Awareness – What Parents Can Do

As another way of counteracting bullying on an individual level, parents can teach children what to do when faced with bullying in any situation. Experts recommend the following guidelines that provide pathways for parents and children to take action.

  1. When bullying happens, reach out and ask for help.
  2. Access adult supervision. Adults can only help if they know bullying is happening.
  3. Talk in advance about recognizing situations likely to lead to bullying.
  4. Lean how to stand up for other kids. Don’t be a silent bystander to bullying.
  5. Role-play with adults in order to figure out what to do in advance and how to respond.
  6. Learn how to walk away or how to use humor to defuse negative situations.
  7. Provide children with disabilities with specific instructions tailored to their individual challenges, including how to interact with other kids and what to expect.
  8. Ask schools to take action with anti-bullying signed pledges and assemblies.

Above all, the first step is to increase bullying awareness. With more education, prevention, and intervention, perhaps the question of “Why do kids bully?” can one day be a relic of the past.


Aggression and Violent Behavior. 17(4):311–322.

Aggression and Violent Behavior. 15(2):112–120.