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Bullying - Characteristics of Children Who Bully

Children who bully:1

  • May witness physical and verbal violence or aggression at home. They have a positive view of this behavior, and they act aggressively toward other people, including adults.
  • May hit or push other children.
  • Are often physically strong.
  • May or may not be popular with other children around their same age.
  • Have trouble following rules.
  • Show little concern for the feelings of others.

Many bullies think highly of themselves. They like being looked up to. And they often expect everyone to behave according to their wishes. Children who bully are often not taught to think about how their actions make other people feel.

Children who bully are at risk for failing in school, dropping out of school, and getting involved with crime and fights later in life.1, 2 They also are more likely to use drugs more than children who don't bully.3

Some children both bully others and are bullied. They may have been bullied and then lash out at others. Children who are both bullies and victims use alcohol and/or carry a weapon more than children not affected by bullying.3

Bullying behavior is a "red flag" that a child has not learned to control his or her aggression. A child who bullies needs counseling to learn healthy ways to interact with people. Professional counseling can guide a child through discovering why bullying is hurtful. Through this process, a counselor can encourage a child to develop empathy, which means being sensitive to and understanding the feelings of others. In some cases, follow-up counseling may involve the parent. Family counseling has been shown to help reduce anger and improve interpersonal relationships in boys who bully.4

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: October 22, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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