Frequently asked questions

Why does bullying happen?

There are probably many reasons why someone is capable of bullying another person. One possible explanation is the bully’s desire bully’s desire for power, that is, people bully to have power over another person and to make them feel tough. Often they pick on people who they consider to be weaker or different in some way, for example:

  • due to a physical characteristic or appearance (e.g.: because they are shorter/taller than classmates; wear glasses or braces; have freckles; have a different way of dressing; belong to an ethnic minority or to a different nationality);
  • due to a non-physical characteristic (e.g.: people who seem insecure, shy, quiet and isolated).

That is why bullying is an intentional behaviour: its purpose is to scare, humiliate or intimidate the victim and, at the same time, to make the bully feel tough, powerful and/or more popular. It is also common for bullies to repeat their bullying behaviours over time, with the same victim or with others.

Isn’t violence between classmates normal when they are messing around?

No. Violence is not a normal or acceptable behaviour. The norm is that classmates behave in a non-violent way. Violence is not play. Often classmates play jokes on each other but when these have the purpose of embarrassing, hurting or harming someone they are no longer simply playing or fooling around. Ask yourself: “How would I feel if I was that boy or girl being mocked?” and you will quickly understand that the joke is only funny for some (it is not funny at all for the person being mocked; it may cause them shame, fear and a great deal of discomfort).

Who is more likely to bully: boys or girls?

Boys and girls are equally likely to be bullies. But boys and girls tend to use different types of bullying:

  • girls are more often involved in psychological forms of bullying, rejection or exclusion behaviours, like spreading rumours, excluding people from their peer group or other types of abuse aimed at humiliating, isolating or upsetting someone;
  • boys are more likely to use more direct forms of bullying, such as pushing, physical aggression and insults.

When does bullying start?

Bullying can start at any age. In some cases it starts in primary school and continues into high school and adult life. Often, if bullies are not confronted with their bullying behaviours they will maintain the violent or aggressive pattern in other relationships (with friends, classmates, work colleagues, future partners).

Does rejection by a peer group or the spread of rumours about a person cause as much impact as physical violence?

The impact of physical violence and abuse depend on many different things:

  • the type of abuse suffered (in general the impact is greater if abuse is endured over longer periods of time and involves more serious forms, such as physical or sexual violence);
  • the individual characteristics of the victim (for example, people who are more fragile and insecure may suffer a deeper negative impact);
  • the support offered by parents, teachers and friends (if the victim decides not to tell anyone about what is happening there is a greater risk of a more negative impact; additionally, by not telling anyone what is happening, it’s more likely that the bullying will continue).

One of my friends is a victim of bullying. What can I do to help?

You can and should help:

  • you can support your friend by giving him/her attention and encouragement and spending more time with him/her;
  • you should demonstrate that you understand what he/she is going through and why he/she does not want to share it with anyone;
  • at the same time, encourage your friend to tell someone: suggest him/her to seek help from parents, teachers or other professionals. But do not be forceful or put pressure on your friend: let him/her decides freely. 

For more information see What should I do?.