Anti-bullying: why are some people bullies?

Why are some people bullied, while others bully?
A girl in a headscarf looks sad while two other girls in headscarves giggle behind her

Lots of people know bullying is happening, but don’t how why it happens, or what to do to stop it.

To stop bullying we need to take action together. This means making sure everyone has the knowledge and support to stop bullying:

  • The person doing the bullying and their friends, parents and supporters
  • The person being bullied and their friends, parents and supporters
  • Other people in the area, school or setting, bystanders
  • Adults who are looking after the situation, like parents or workers

Why do people bully?

People have excuses for why they bully. They might say things like, "I am unhappy" or "I have problems at home." They might also deny that what they are doing is bullying, saying "I'm just having fun" or "It's just banter". It's important to sort out the problems that the young people are having and to learn better ways of having fun. This must not distract from stopping the bullying.

People bully others for three main reasons:

  • They feel threatened, stressed or anxious
  • They have problems making friends
  • They think they can get away with it.

Every time someone bullies another person, these issues become worse. This leads to more stress and usually more bullying.

Why are some people bullied and others not?

People can be bullied for any reason. Here are some examples:

  • They may have an obvious vulnerability, like a disability, or a hidden vulnerability, like problems at home.
  • They have something the person doing the bullying is jealous of – a talent, for example, or nice things.
  • They won’t do what the person bullying them tells them to do, so bullying becomes a form of punishment. 
  • They lack confidence and find it hard to stand up for themselves.


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