Who are the victims of bullying?

Bullying victims tend to be polar opposites of bullies. They are often shy and quiet, with few friends and little social support at school. They may be physically weak or lack confidence in their strength. Hence, they rarely stand up to bullies.

Victims often have poor social skills. One study showed that students and teachers perceive victims to:

  • display vulnerability (e.g., “look scared”).
  • be nonassertive (e.g., “gives in to the bully too easily”).
  • reward, and thus reinforce, bullying (e.g., “cries when picked on”).
  • be withdrawn and solitary (e.g., “talks quietly”).
  • be “provocative” or “aggressive” (e.g., “annoys other kids”).

Most victims do nothing actively to provoke their tormentors. Their helplessness does it for them. But as the last item above suggests, one subgroup is different: “provocative” or “aggressive” victims. These youths are impulsive and socially clumsy. They often have reading and writing problems and show characteristics of attention-deficit disorder (ADHD). Their behavior tends to elicit negative reactions from other students. Because these youngsters may even try to bully others themselves, some call them “bully-victims.”

In his study “Bullies, Aggressive Victims and Victims: Are They Distinct Groups?” James D. Unnevern of Radford University found that aggressive victims were less proactively aggressive but more reactively aggressive than pure bullies. They were also substantially more proactively aggressive than pure victims.

Most studies show more boys are bullies than girls. Yet girls bully, too. Although physical bullying happens among girls, they tend to use subtler and less-direct tactics such as excluding someone from their group, spreading rumors or manipulating friendship relations. In one study of middle-school peer harassment, however, there were no differences in the perceptions of bullying between boys and girls.

Online, girls generally mock others’ appearance, while boys tend to make more sexually explicit comments, according to Mary Worthington, an elementary education counselor for the Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA), which offers prevention-education programs to students and parents.

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4 thoughts on “Who are the victims of bullying?”

  1. This is a complex problem and victims need the support of peers, parents, teachers, and administrators. Plus, this must not be put on the back burner, but brought to the front.

  2. I forgot about girl-specific bullying (excluding someone from their group, spreading rumors or manipulating friendship relations). Thanks for the reminder – ouch! Those can be powerfully painful practices to victims. Keep up the good work!

  3. Bullying is unacceptable. It saddens me how there are kids living in fear on a day-to-day basis. Any type of bullying should be prevented as much as possible. Kids need to learn how to release their anger/emotions on things other than kids smaller than the bullies in size. Visit BULLYFIGHT.COM to hear out MMA fighters talk about their perspectives on bullying and see what alternatives there are for both bullies and victims. please share if you know anyone that might be in need of this useful website.

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