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A Glimpse of The Bully Who's Probably In Your Child's School

A Prototypical Profile of The Bully


Updated November 13, 2010

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There are many types of bullies but they all tend to share similar characteristics. Here is what the bully in your child's school probably looks like.

The Bully Has A Particular Personality Type

Bullies tend to have high levels of aggression. Their aggression is often obvious early in life and is stable over time. The bully is also typically more impulsive than his or her peers and less likely to handle frustration well. In addition, bullies appear to have less empathy and to derive more satisfaction from others' pain compared to their peers.

The Bully Tends to Have Physical Strength

Children who become bullies, particularly physical bullies, tend to be physically stronger than their peers. In particular, they have advantages in terms of height, weight and muscle ratio. In fact, adults may even be frightened of the strength of these children.

The Bully Exhibits Strong Manipulation Skills

The school bully often has a particular talent for influencing and manipulating others, including adults. Due to their charm, many bullies are popular and make friends easier than their peers do. Some children who become bullies, however, instead experience peer rejection. These children become bullies as a way of lashing out at their rejecting peers.

The Bully Has a Poor Relationship with School

Bullies typically perform more poorly in school than their peers. They also tend to actively dislike school and to show rebellion against school procedures. Bullies' dislike of school seems to be particularly strong in middle school, researchers find.

The Bully Usually Comes From An Unhealthy Family

The home life of bullies tends to be unhealthy. For one, the father is often not present or present only occasionally. Secondly, the most common parenting style used is the permissive style, which means that the child is largely unsupervised. Finally, discipline tends to be doled out unpredictably. When punishment is actually used, it tends to be physical (e.g., a spanking). Physical punishment may teach the child that physical aggression is acceptable, leading to increased aggression against their peers.


Aluede, Oyaziwo, Adeleke, Fajoju, Omoike, Don, and Afen-Akpaida, Justina. A review of the extent, nature, characteristics and effects of bullying behavior in schools. 2008. Journal of Instructional Psychology. 35,2: 151-158.

Smokowski, Paul R., and Kopasz, Kelly Holland. Bullying in school: An overview of types, effects, family characteristics, and intervention strategies. 2005. Children & Schools. 27,2: 101-110.

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