​FAQs: Why does bullying happen?

The series FAQs: Bullying in schools answers frequently asked questions about bullying, provides useful advice to parents and students about dealing with bullying, and summarises contemporary approaches to bullying in Australian school communities.

Download the complete set of frequently asked questions (PDF, 135KB) or read individual questions here. (See the menu for the range of FAQs).

Why do people bully others?
Who bullies others?
Are some people more likely to be bullied more than others?
Why is it sometimes hard to identify bullying?

Why do people bully others?

People who bully others are often motivated by the status and social power they can achieve through bullying. Some may bully others to compensate for what is happening to them and their own feelings of powerlessness.

Bullying behaviours can also be copied by others. Investigating how students view the situation and why they think the bullying is happening is central to appropriate school responses.

Who bullies others?

All individuals have the potential to bully others or to be bullied. However some individuals persistently bully others for a range of reasons and in a range of contexts.

Bullying is highly dynamic. Students’ roles can change in different contexts. Individuals can occupy various roles in bullying, including the individual being bullied, those bullying others, and bystanders who may be assistants, reinforcers, outsiders, or defenders. One individual can play one role in one context while taking a different role in another.

Are some people more likely to be bullied more than others?

Research indicates that any characteristic that makes a child stand out or sets a child apart from the peer group places them at greater risk of being bullied. Standing out in any way increases the likelihood of being bullied.

Why is it sometimes hard to identify bullying?

Bullying can be hard to identify because it involves the types of actions and behaviours that also happen outside of a bullying situation, it can be hidden (or covert) as well as obvious (overt), and can occur in both individual and group situations.

Some bullying can be quite subtle or involve words known only by the students, making it difficult for adults to recognise. Students may also be reluctant to tell someone else.

These complexities can make it difficult to identify if a person or group is being bullied. This means that families and schools need to be alert to possibly subtle signs of bullying and to check in regularly with students.

 

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