10 Types of Kids Most Likely to Be Bullied

Discover how bullies choose their targets

sad little boy
Kelly Knox/Stocksy United

There are a number of reasons why someone may be bullied. They include everything from personality differences to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. What's more, anyone can be a target of bullying, even strong, athletic, and popular kids. 

Bullying is about a wrong choice the bully makes, not some perceived defect in the target. The responsibility for bullying always falls on the bully's shoulders, not the victim's.

Nonetheless, there a number of types of kids who are often the target of bullies.

Good at What They Do

A lot of times kids will be bullied because they get a lot of positive attention from their peers and from adults. This attention could be everything from excelling in sports, making the cheerleading squad, or getting the editor’s position on the school newspaper.

Bullies target these students because they either feel inferior or they worry that their abilities are being overshadowed by the target’s abilities. As a result, they bully these kids hoping to make them feel insecure as well as make others doubt their abilities.

Intelligent, Determined and Creative

At school, these students go that extra mile on schoolwork. Or they learn very quickly and move through projects and assignments faster than other students. For instance, gifted students are often targeted for excelling in school. Bullies usually single them out because they are  jealous of this attention.

Personal Vulnerabilities 

Children who are introverted, anxious, or submissive are more likely to be bullied than kids who are extroverted and assertive. In fact, some researchers believe that kids who lack self-esteem may attract kids who are prone to bully. What's more, kids who engage in people pleasing are often targeted by bullies because they are easy to manipulate.

Finally, research shows that kids suffering from depression or stress-related conditions may also be more likely to be bullied, which often makes the condition worse. Bullies select these kids because they are an easy mark and less likely to fight back. Most bullies want to feel powerful, so they often choose kids that are weaker than them.

Few or No Friends 

Many victims of bullying tend to have fewer friends than children who do not experience bullying. They may be rejected by their peers, excluded from social events, and may even spend lunch and recess alone.

Parents and teachers can prevent bullying of socially-isolated students by helping them develop friendships. Bystanders can also support these students by befriending them.

Research shows that if a child has at least one friend, his chances of being bullied reduce dramatically. Without a friend to back them up, these kids are more likely to be targeted by bullies because they do not have to worry about someone coming to the victim's aid.

Popular or Well-Liked 

Sometimes bullies target popular or well-liked children because of the threat they pose to the bully. Mean girls are especially likely to target a girl who threatens her popularity or her social standing.

A lot of relational aggression is directly linked to an attempt to climb the social ladder. Kids will spread rumors, engage in name-calling, and even resort to cyberbullying in an effort to destroy their popularity. When these kids are targeted, the bully is looking to discredit the victims and make them less likable. 

Physical Features That Attract Attention

Almost any type of physical characteristic that is different or unique can attract the attention of bullies. It may be that the victim is short, tall, thin, or obese. They might wear glasses or have acne, a large nose, or ears that stick out.

It really doesn't matter what it is, the bully will pick a feature and distort it into a target.

Many times, this type of bullying is extremely painful and damaging to a young person's self-esteem. Most bullies that target these kids get some enjoyment from making fun of others. Other times, they are looking for a laugh at another person's expense.

The best way to combat a bully who targets this type of person, is to take away his audience.

An Illness or Disability

Bullies often target special needs children. This can include children who have Asperger’s, autism, ADHD, dyslexia, or any condition that sets them apart. Kids with conditions like food allergies, asthma, Down syndrome, and other conditions also can be targeted by bullies. When this happens, the bullies show a lack of empathy or are making jokes at another person's expense. 

It is very important for teachers and parents to make sure these kids have a support group with them to help defend against bullying. It also helps if the general student population frowns on this type of bullying in particular. If bullies know this is taboo, they are less likely to do it.

Sexual Orientation

More often than not, kids are bullied for being gay. In fact, some of the most brutal bullying incidents have involved children who are bullied for their sexual orientation. If left unchecked, prejudicial bullying, can result in serious hate crimes. As a result, it is essential that LGBT students be given a solid support network in order to keep them safe.

Religious or Cultural Beliefs

It is not uncommon for kids to be bullied for their religious beliefs. One example of this type of bullying includes the treatment Muslim students received after the 9/11 tragedy. However, any student can be bullied for their religious beliefs. Both Christian students and Jewish students are often ridiculed for their beliefs and practices as well.

Bullying based on different religious beliefs usually stems from a lack of understanding as well as a lack of tolerance for believing something different.

Race

Sometimes kids will bully others because they are of a different race. For instance, white students may single out black students and bully them. Or black students may single out white students and bully them.

It happens with all races and in all directions. No race is exempt from being bullied, and no race is exempt from having bullies. Just like with religious bullying, these students are singled out for no other reason than the fact that they're different.

A Word From Verywell

While each of these characteristics may be exploited by bullies, they in no way are faults that victims should change. Remember, bullying is about the bully making a bad choice. It is important that this fact is communicated to victims of bullying. They need to be reminded that there is nothing wrong with them and they are not to blame for being targeted.

Source: 

Brewer G, Kerslake J. Cyberbullying, Self-Esteem, Empathy, and Loneliness. Computers in Human Behavior. 2015;48:255–260. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.01.073.

Mishna F, et al. The Contribution of Social Support to Children and Adolescents' Self-Perception: The Mediating Role of Bullying Victimization. Children and Youth Services Review. 2016;63:120–127. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2016.02.013.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bullying: Who Is at Risk. StopBullying.gov. 2018.