Characteristics of the Typical Victim of Bullying

Girl being bullied by text message

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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, there are certain children that are more likely to encounter the problem. If you're worried that your tween is vulnerable to bullying you should know what makes a child stand out to mean peers and bullies. Here are the major characteristics that make someone more likely to be a victim of bullying and other mean behaviors.

Insecure Personality

Children who act submissively and anxiously are more likely to be bullied than children who do not have those tendencies. Bullied children also tend to be insecure and to cry often, even before the bullying begins. In fact, some researchers believe that a child's lack of assertiveness and security may serve as a cue to bullies that the child is a "perfect victim." There's also evidence that children who experience depression and bodily symptoms of stress (such as headaches or stomachaches) may be more likely to be bullied. This is particularly unfortunate since these problems also seem to be caused or worsened by bullying.

Lower Peer Acceptance

You've probably seen a movie or two that shows a victim eating alone at the lunch table, or having no or few friends. Bully victims tend to have fewer friends than children who do not experience bullying. In addition, a victim of bullying is often perceived poorly by peers and may have experienced peer rejection or is often left out of social situations. These children are often found alone at recess and lunchtime. This negative peer response typically occurs long before the bullying begins.

"Different" in Some Way

Unfortunately, children with special needs are disproportionately victims of bullying. For instance, children with learning disabilities often report that they are bullied as a result of their disorder. Children with obvious physical or mental issues may also face abuse at higher levels than their peers, as may those who are homosexual or bisexual. Children who stand out for being smart, who come from a different cultural background, or who are new to a school also can be singled out by bullies.

Physically Weak

Being physically weaker than peers also seems to put a child at increased risk of being bullied. This particularly seems to be the case for kids who look weaker at first glance; in other words, kids who are shorter, thinner or less muscular than peers. Children who reach puberty sooner or later than their peers may find themselves vulnerable to mean behavior, as may children who tend to fail at sports.

Overprotective Parents

Perhaps because their child demonstrates many of the characteristics listed here, parents of bully victims tend to overprotect their child. These parents tend to avoid open disagreements with their child and try to create a sense of harmony in the household at all costs. Unfortunately, this makes the child less able to deal with conflict and more likely to be victimized by peers. In addition, parents of victims often become socially over-involved with their child to make up for peer rejection. Again, this only makes the child's problems with peers worse rather than better.

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