15 December 2022

Who is Most Prone to Bullying Behaviors?

Risk Factors Leading to Childhood and Adult Bullying

Bullying is a serious problem that can lead to emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and in the worst cases it can even be a factor in self-harm or suicide. Bullying behaviors exist in schools, in families, peer groups, and even in the workplace. While bullying can sometimes be subtle or veiled, it can also be overtly displayed, and is sometimes even tolerated.

With bullying being such a major problem, it is not only important to understand the psychology behind a bully, but also the risk factors that lead to the behavior. It is an unfortunate fact that those who are different in some way are more at risk of being bullied, but are there specific characteristics or situations that bullies prey on? Let’s take a look at risk factors for children being bullied, and also for adults in professional scenarios.

What Puts a Child at Risk of Bullying?

There are some definite clichés when it comes to bullies. Those that perform bullying usually have aggressive tendencies, may suffer from self-esteem issues, and may come from troubled homes with little parental guidance. Some research also suggests that victims of bullying are more at risk of becoming bullies themselves.

Typically, a bully will pick on another child who is;

  • Physically weak or small in nature, especially when the bullying is physical. Bullies who view another child as being unable to defend themselves will see them as an easy target.
  • Introverted, withdrawn, and with few social skills. Children that don’t have a peer support group are more at risk of being victims of bullying.
  • Displaying characteristics of low self-esteem. Depressed children are sometimes at more risk of bullying, which can make depression worse and create issues with anxiety.
  • Overly outspoken, provocative, or attention-seeking. Children that display these characteristics can become targets of bullying in school or in social circles.
  • Of a different cultural, religious, or ethnic background to the majority.

Workplace Factors that Contribute to Adult Bullying

Many victims of bullying are adults, and there are even cases of bullying in professional scenarios. Office place bullying can be incredibly difficult to deal with, and may even have a financial or performance impact on the company where the bullying is taking place.

Some of the leading factors that contribute to workplace bullying include;

  • Extremely authoritarian type hierarchies in the workplace. Leadership styles that are too regimented can contribute to a hostile workplace.
  • Conversely, management that is too lax and detached can also facilitate an environment where bullying takes place. With little supervision or lack of direction, bullying can occur.
  • A lack of communication in the workplace can lead to negative interactions.
  • Overly critical team members or leadership figures may create environments where isolation exists. Employees that are excluded from supportive working groups are at risk of being bullied.

Worryingly, a 2014 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute of America found that 27% of respondents had been victims of workplace bullying and that the majority of abusive behavior came from leaders or staff in a position of influence.

Be Aware of the Risks - Speak Up When Bullying is Present

Whether your child is experiencing bullying at school, or you or someone you know is being bullied in the workplace, it is important to know the risk factors. This can help you to identify bullying more easily, allowing you to take action to confront the antisocial and potentially harmful behavior.


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