8 Reasons Why Teens Bully Others

Girl getting bullied in high school hallway
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Why do kids bully others? This question is at the top of the list when it comes to understanding bullying behavior. In fact, understanding why bullies target specific kids requires moving past the usual assumptions.

Assumptions about bullies include believing that all bullies are loners or lack self-esteem. However, the reasons behind bullying can run the gamut from lack of impulse control and anger management issues to revenge and a longing to fit in. Here is an overview of the top eight reasons why kids may bully others.


Teens who want to be in control or have power are prone to bullying. They only interact with others when it is on their terms. If things do not go their way, then they may resort to bullying. This is especially true among mean girls who often thrive on power and control.

Athletes and physically strong students also may resort to bullying because of the power they have over weaker or smaller students. Additionally, some athletes will bully each other in an attempt to eliminate the competition on the team.


Sometimes bullying can be a manifestation of social status. Kids who are popular often make fun of kids who are less popular by perpetuating relational aggression and mean girl behavior. Popularity also can lead kids to spread rumors and gossip, engage in slut-shaming and ostracize others.

Meanwhile, kids who are trying to climb the social ladder at school or gain some social power often resort to bullying, sexual bullying or cyberbullying to get attention. They also might bully others to diminish the social status of another person.


There is a tendency for some teens who have been victims of bullying to look for ways to retaliate or to seek revenge. These kids are often referred to as bully-victims, and they often feel justified in their actions because they too have been harassed and tormented.

When they bully others, they may feel a sense of relief and vindication for what they experienced. Sometimes these kids target someone weaker or more vulnerable than them. Other times, they will even go after the bully directly.


Teens who come from abusive homes are more likely to bully than other children because aggression and violence are modeled for them. Likewise, kids with permissive or absent parents also may resort to bullying. It gives them a sense of power and control, which is lacking in their own life. And kids with low self-esteem may resort to bullying as a way to cover for a low sense of self-worth.

Sibling bullying also can lead to bullying at school. When an older brother or sister taunts and torments a younger sibling, this creates a sense of powerlessness. To regain that feeling of power, these kids then bully others sometimes even emulating the older sibling.


Kids who are bored and looking for entertainment will sometimes resort to bullying to add some excitement and drama to their otherwise dull lives. They also might choose to bully because they lack attention and supervision from parents. As a result, bullying becomes an outlet for getting attention.

Meanwhile, kids that lack empathy often enjoy hurting other people's feelings. Not only do they appreciate the sense of power they get from bullying others, but they may find hurtful "jokes" funny.


More often than not, teens will bully kids for being different in some way. For instance, kids may be targeted because they have special needs or food allergies. Other times, kids are singled out for their race, religion and sexual orientation. Some sort of prejudice is usually at the root of bullying.

Peer Pressure

Sometimes kids bully others to fit in with a clique, even if it means going against their better judgment. Often, these kids are more concerned with fitting in and being accepted than they are worried about the consequences of bullying. Other times kids will bully because they are simply going along with the group. Fear of not being accepted or fear of becoming the next target can lead kids to bully in groups.

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