• Every single day, people are bullied by their peers: in school, at work, and elsewhere.
  • An important question to ask when it comes to bullying is why: why do bullies bully? A few factors are involved, including whether or not actions are taken by a community to prevent bullying.
  • Additionally, sometimes bullies are created at home: if they’re abused by a family member in their household, they might model that same behavior and mistreat others.
  • Anybody can fall victim to bullying, but some individuals are especially vulnerable: those who are different from their peers such as those who look or act different.
  • Bullying is never okay as it is extremely harmful; those who get bullied are more likely to experience mental health issues like depression and/or anxiety.

Jonathan is excited about his family’s recent move to a new town. He had a big falling out with his friends back home and saw this as an opportunity to start anew—to make some new friends and build his reputation from scratch. But quickly, that excitement turns into sadness and anxiety. His first day at his new school doesn’t quite go as planned. Instead of meeting some cool new people, he’s taunted and teased by his new classmates. They laugh during his introduction in first period, isolate him at lunch, and throw things at him on the bus.

Unfortunately, people (like Jonathan) are bullied every single day. They’re teased, mocked, harassed, manipulated… and ultimately torn down mentally and emotionally. This begs a few questions: Why does this happen? Why do bullies bully and who is at risk of becoming a bully’s victim?

Why Do Bullies Bully?

First thing’s first: why does bullying happen in the first place? Why do people decide to bully people, like we see above with Jonathan? It ultimately comes down to several factors. One being the attitude and the actions of the community. If the community doesn’t take steps to denounce bullying and stop bullying behavior, then that tells its members that bullying is okay. “Bullying happens most often when the culture of a school or workplace encourages it. If a community doesn’t promote bullying but also doesn’t do anything to stop it, it still sends a message that harassment is acceptable,” explains Dr. Sal Raichbach, a licensed clinical social worker at Ambrosia Treatment Center. “In this type of environment, people who wouldn’t normally bully will join in out of fear or a desire to fit in. When standing up for someone could compromise an individual’s social status or popularity, people are much more likely to engage in abusive behaviors.”

In other instances, bullies are created in the household. They’re kids who are (or were) mistreated at home, who now model the same abusive behavior or simply act out for attention. “In some cases, emotional turmoil causes an aggressor to bully others. This is common in cases of child abuse. When a child is exposed to violence in the household, it shapes the way they see the world and their place in it,” Dr. Sal explains. “If they are a victim at home, they might act out at school for the attention they aren’t getting at home. Similarly, they might have the desire to feel powerful and in control because they have no control over their lives at home. Usually, the desire to make someone feel inferior stems from the aggressor’s insecurities.”

How Do Bullies Choose Their Victims?

Anybody can fall victim to bullying. In fact, most of us are bullied at some point in our lives. Whether we’re made fun of by our peers in grade school or we’re harassed by our coworkers at our job. That said, there are individuals especially vulnerable to bullying: those who are different in some way, shape, or form. In Jonathan’s case, he was different in that he was the new kid. “Generally, individuals who are most vulnerable to bullying are the ones who stand out among their peers and don’t have a lot of friends,” Dr. Sal explains. “It could be because they look different, are new to the school, or struggle with social anxiety. When someone is different, they stick out to potential bullies as a target. Not only are they easy to single out, but they don’t have a lot of people to defend them.”

In any which case, bullying is never okay. Those who are bullied can go on to experience negative mental health issues. These include but are not limited to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • PTSD
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideation

Additionally, victims of bullying can also suffer in other areas of life like school; these students are more likely to miss or skip school, perform poorly on tests, and slack off on their schoolwork. All in all, bullying is incredibly harmful to all of those involved, from the victims to the perpetrators to the witnesses. For this reason, we all need to do our part to raise awareness for and aid in the prevention of bullying.