What is bullying?

Bullying is intentional, and goal-directed behaviour usually surrounds the context of power imbalance. The behaviour may be repetitive and persistent. Bullying is a multidimensional phenomenon that can have serious long-term effects on people’s health and well-being, alongside psychosocial effects on the perpetrators, victims and bystanders. The act of bullying can take on many forms, such as verbal bullying, which can include name-calling and teasing; social bullying, which involves hurting someone’s relationships or reputations;  physical bullying, which involves hurting a person’s body; and cyber-bullying, which includes using the internet and social media platforms to cause harm. There can be more than one bully or victim involved in the phenomenon.

Why do bullies bully?

There can be more than one reason why someone may be a bully. It may be to gain a reputation, resources, or reproduction reasons. Much research supports that bullies are bullies because it highlights their social dominance. The Reputation Enhancement Theory (RET) suggests that individuals choose a reputation or identity and promote their chosen identity in front of peers. Individuals may go to great lengths to maintain their reputation. Therefore, the theory can help explain why a bully may be a bully. Bullying is a social group process between a bully and the victim, highlighting a power dynamic. The bully may have the desire to be strong and powerful, and the act of bullying reinforces their chosen image.

Am I a bully?

If you are wondering if you may be engaging in bullying, it is important to approach the matter with self-awareness and sensitivity. You can take some time to reflect on your actions and identify instances where some of your behaviours may be considered bullying and how they impacted others. You can ask for feedback from trusted family members and friends on your behaviour to improve. If you realize that you may have hurt people with your actions, you can apologize and express your willingness to change to those individuals.


Get Support

Houghton, S., Carroll, A., Tan, C., & Nathan, E. (2013). Why do bullies bully? Reputation as a predictor of bullying. School bullying: Predictive factors, coping strategies and effects on mental health, 191-209.

Volk, A. A., Dane, A. V., & Marini, Z. A. (2014). What is bullying? A theoretical redefinition. Developmental Review34(4), 327-343.