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Characteristics of a Bully

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Teenage boy (14-16) outdoors, close-up
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Quick Links: High School Survival Guide | Quiz: Is your child a bully?

If you have ever worked with youth beyond your own children, you have had an opportunity to see different personality types and you have most likely come across a child or teen who bullies. These children tend to not be too hard to spot, even if you do not see the bullying directly. You can often tell by how other children are reacting to the bully by staying clear of the bully or trying to look small so as to not get noticed. Otherwise, here are the characteristics to look for:

Common Characteristics of Children Who Bully

  • Impulsive, wants something, so they just take it. Doesn't matter who it belongs to.
  • hot-headed, yells and screams when angry.
  • Dominant, takes charge of their group as it they own the people in the group instead of being leader.
  • Easily frustrated and annoyed;
  • Lack empathy, isn't sympathetic to anyone's needs or desires but their own. Doesn't give a thought to how their actions may make other people feel. May even place the blame of their victim's misfortune on the victim. Example: "If that geek didn't look so stupid, I wouldn't have to hit him."
  • Have difficulty following rules and does not have much respect for authority.
  • View violence in a positive way. Sees it as a means to get what they want or that violence has entertainment value as in violent video games or fight clubs with peers.
  • Boys who bully tend to be physically stronger than other children.
  • Girls who bully tend to be perceived as popular.

There is no single cause of bullying among children. A host of different factors can place a child at risk for bullying his or her peers. However, it has been found that children who bully are more likely than their non-bullying peers to come from homes with certain characteristics.

Family Risk Factors for Bullying

  • A lack of warmth and involvement on the part of parents. This can be because of a single parent environment where the parent is not at home or is too tired or apathetic when they are at home. A lack of warmth is common in a home with parents
  • Overly permissive parenting (including a lack of limits for children's behavior). This is where many of the children who feel entitled fit in as bullies. These parents are more worried about how they will be perceived or if their child will get angry with them to correct aggressive and violent behavior.
  • A lack of supervision by parents. Children and teens need supervision as it gives them a firm foundation of discipline. With it they know where their lines are and what rules they are to follow. Without it, their world is in chaos and they will act out, sometimes with aggression as in the case of a bully.
  • Harsh, physical discipline, often boarding on abusive from one or both parents and
  • Bullying incidences at home where they are in fights with siblings or the teen is abusive to a parent.
Bullying and Other Violent and/or Antisocial Behaviors

Research shows that bullying can be a sign of other serious antisocial and/or violent behavior such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Conduct Disorder. Children who frequently bully their peers are more likely than others to:

  • Get into frequent fights;
  • Be injured in a fight;
  • Vandalize or steal property;
  • Drink alcohol;
  • Smoke;
  • Be truant from school;
  • Drop out of school; and
  • Carry a weapon.

Quick Links: High School Survival Guide | Quiz: Is your child a bully?

Source: HRSA

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