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Characteristics of The Typical Victim of Bullying

What The Victim of Bullying Usually Looks Like


Updated June 09, 2014

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Anyone can be the victim of bullying but certain types of children are more likely to be victimized. Here are the characteristics that make someone more likely to be a victim of bullying.

The Typical Victim of Bullying Has an Insecure Personality

Children who act submissively and anxiously are more likely to be bullied than children who do not have those tendencies. Bullied children also tend to be insecure and to cry often, even before the bullying begins. In fact, some researchers believe that a child's lack of assertiveness and security may serve as a cue to bullies that the child is a "perfect victim". There's also evidence that children who experience depression and bodily symptoms of stress (such as headaches or stomachaches) may be more likely to be bullied. This is particularly unfortunate since these problems also seem to be caused or worsened by bullying.

The Typical Victim of Bullying Has Lower Peer Acceptance

Bully victims tend to have fewer friends than children who do not experience bullying. In addition, a victim of bullying is often perceived poorly by peers and may have experienced peer rejection. These children are often found alone at recess and lunchtime. This negative peer response typically occurs long before the bullying begins.

The Typical Victim of Bullying is "Different" in Some Way

Unfortunately, children with special needs are disproportionately victims of bullying. For instance, children with learning disorders often report that they are bullied as a result of their disorder. Children with obvious physical or mental issues may also face abuse at higher levels than their peers, as may those who are homosexual or bisexual.

The Typical Victim of Bullying is Physically Weak

Being physically weaker than peers also seems to put a child at increased risk of being bullied. This particularly seems to be the case for kids who look weaker at first glance; in other words, kids who are shorter, thinner or less muscular than peers. Victimized children also tend to fail at sports.

The Typical Victim of Bullying Has Overprotective Parents

Perhaps because their child demonstrates many of the characteristics listed here, parents of bully victims tend to overprotect their child. These parents tend to avoid open disagreements with their child and try to create a sense of harmony in the household at all costs. Unfortunately this makes the child less able to deal with conflict and more likely to be victimized by peers. In addition, parents of victims often become socially over-involved with their child to make up for peer rejection. Again, this only makes the child's problems with peers worse rather than better.


Hixon, Sheri. Psychosocial processes associated with bullying and victimization. 2009. The Humanistic Psychologist. 37: 257-270.

Reijntes, Albert, Kamphuis, Jan H., Prinzie, Peter, and Telch, Michael J. Peer victimization and internalizing problems in children: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. 2010. Child Abuse & Neglect. 34: 244-252.

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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