The truth behind bullying is that there isn't one stereotypical "bully." Risk factors that lead to bullying range from low self-confidence and anxiety to an inflated sense of self-esteem. Likewise, kids who frustrate easily, find following rules a challenge and have friends who also bully are more likely than other children to engage in threatening types of behaviors.
When Students Have Low Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem is a potential risk factor for bullying, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's Stopbullying.gov website. In a study of 2,678 students in elementary through high school, researchers found that low self-esteem was linked to bullying behaviors, according to the journal "Child Development." One possible explanation for this connection is that the students with low self-esteem used bullying at school as a way to feel better about themselves. Threatening others or treating others as victims was a way that these students made themselves feel powerful. Even though low self-esteem is a risk factor, not every child who lacks confidence bullies, and not every child who bullies lacks confidence. Students who are dominant, confident or have an inflated self-image may also threaten others as a way to gain power. For some students, low self-esteem is a risk factor for being bullied. Children who appear weak, are unpopular or aren't able to defend themselves may become victims of bullying
Children Who Like to Take Charge
While being assertive or a leader is a positive, being aggressive isn't. Some students who bully are popular and socially connected at school. Even though these children and teens have friends and active social lives and are well-integrated into the school as a community, they also have a need to dominate less popular students. To maintain popularity, this type of student bullies other children. Whether the cause is the desire to be in charge or the student believes that acting dominant equals popularity, the result is bullying.
Peer Pressure and the Desire to Fit In
Some students bully to retain their popularity, while others act in violent or threatening ways to fit in. These students aren't necessarily aggressive and don't always feel comfortable with their own bullying behaviors, according to the National Association of School Psychologists. The pressure to fit in and or please the popular students may influence a child enough to make her bully others. For some students, having friends who bully is a risk factor. This doesn't mean that all children who are friends with bullies will also engage in threatening or violent behaviors, but instead that being friends with a bully may make a child more likely to adopt similar ways of thinking and acting.
Lack of Teacher and Staff Support
When schools don't take bullying seriously, students suffer. If a teacher, administrator or other school staff member ignores bullying, the students may believe that their behavior is acceptable. When teachers respond immediately to bullying and use these incidents as teachable moments, the likelihood of these violent acts decreases, according to the American Psychological Association. Another issue contributing to bullying in some schools is a negative community climate. When teachers and staff consistently use negative feedback, the students may also adopt negative attitudes. This type of setting may contribute to bullying.
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