Characteristics of the Typical Victim of Bullying

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Parents often worry about whether or not their child will be bullied at school, on the sports field, or in the neighborhood. While any student can be the victim of bullying, some children are more likely to encounter the problem.

Here are the major characteristics that make a child more vulnerable to bullies.

Insecure Personality

Children who appear submissive, passive, and anxious are more likely to be bullied than peers who do not exhibit these traits. Bullied children also tend to be insecure and to cry frequently—even before bullying occurs.

Some researchers believe that a child's lack of assertiveness and security might serve as a cue to bullies that they are the "perfect victim."

There's also evidence that kids who experience depression and bodily symptoms of stress (such as headaches or stomachaches) might be more likely to be bullied. These problems can also be caused or made worse by bulling.

Lower Peer Acceptance

Victims of bullies may have few or no friends—the common depiction in TV and film is the child who sits alone at lunch. A child who is the target of a bully is less likely to have a wide circle of friends compared to their peers who are not bullied.

Kids who are bullied are often not accepted by other children. The negative peer response typically emerges long before bullying begins, with children experiencing peer rejection and being left out of social situations.

Perceived as "Different"

Children who are seen by their peers as being "different" in some way are more likely to be bullied. Children with special needs and learning disabilities are disproportionately affected by bullying.

Kids who stand out from the crowd for any reason can easily become the target of bullies. A few examples of reasons kids are bullied by peers include:

  • Thy are from an ethnic, cultural, or religious minority
  • They are LGBTQ
  • They have a physical or mental disorder
  • They are smart or have a special talent

Physical Appearance

Research has found that kids who are perceived as being larger or smaller than peers are also at an increased risk for bullying—even if they are not objectively under- or overweight. Kids who reach puberty earlier (or later) than peers are also at risk for bullying.

Any aspect of their physical appearance that sets them apart from others in their age group—whether it's wearing glasses, braces, or a hearing aid—can make a child more likely to be bullied.

Overprotective Parents

Parents of bullying victims tend to overprotect the child. These parents tend to avoid having disagreements with their children and try to create a sense of harmony in the household. While they have good intentions, these behaviors can be unhelpful.

Overprotective parental behaviors prevent a child from learning how to handle conflict—which actually makes it more likely that they will be victimized by peers.

Parents of kids who are bullied might become socially over-involved to make up for peer rejection, but this can actually be another reason a child is picked on.

A Word From Verywell

Victims of bullying shouldn't be blamed, but understanding what makes some kids more likely to be targeted by bullying is important for parents. You might need to step in and talk to your child's school or keep an eye on their behavior, but the main goal should be empowerment. When you recognize why your child is getting picked on, you can support them in making positive changes.

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