Why Do People Bully

Why do people bully? There are many forms of bullying, from verbal abuse to physical assault and cyberbulling, which is done online. All of these forms have the goal of intimidating or coercing the intended target. Although bullying has always existed, there is more public awareness of it now, due to highly publicized news events and coordinated campaigns to fight it.

Almost anyone can become a target for bullying. At different times, people have become targets of bullies due to race, religion, sexual orientation and many other characteristics. At one point or another, most of us have been affected by bullying, but what drives people to do it? Due to anti-bullying campaigns, researchers are studying and learning more and more about the various factors involved in bullying. Scientists are learning that the causes are much more complex than previously believed.

When we think of bullying, we typically think of the school bully on the playground, threatening to beat someone up after school. But the reality is that bullying takes on many different forms and happens everywhere, among people of all ages. Sometimes bullying is physical; other times the abuse takes on the form of malicious teasing, name-calling, rumor spreading or threats. There is no one reason as to why people bully; often there are several factors that make people into bullies. 

It was once a commonly held belief that bullies were kids with low self-esteem, who would put others down in order to make themselves feel better. While this is occasionally the case, it is now known that most kids who bully tend to have an inflated ego and a sense of entitlement. Many bullies feel that they have the right to treat people badly, because they somehow feel that they are better than their victims.

Bullying is often about control. Bullies often enjoy the feeling of power they get from victimizing others. This seems to be particularly true when the bully has himself been the victim of aggression or bullying, either at home or at school. Bullying someone else gives these people the power and control they do not have when they are the victims.

Bullies often abuse others as a way to earn the approval of their peers. Sadly, this often works. Bullies are frequently perceived by their peers as "tough" or "cool." When aggression and cruelty are rewarded in this way, it only reinforces the bully's negative behaviors.

It is difficult to know exactly how many children have been tormented by a bully; statistics on the subject vary greatly, depending upon the study.  But we do know that bullying does seem to be a growing problem in our schools and neighborhoods, and that it sometimes leads to depression, violent acts and suicide. It is important for parents to keep their eyes open for signs that their child may be one of the millions affected by bullying.

Campaigns against bullying seek to develop environments that do not succumb to a culture of bullying, whether it is in schools, the workplace, neighborhoods or other places. Often, some type of training or education may be involved to teach participants how to recognize and defuse situations that may escalate into bullying. Laws against bullying in schools are becoming more common, and there is some movement toward creating laws against bullying in the workplace as well.

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