What Are the Causes of Bullying?

The causes of bullying aren't linear and must be understood in a broader context. Sometimes the bully's a victim in another environment.
What Are the Causes of Bullying?

Last update: 08 November, 2022

The magnitude of bullying leads us to ask ourselves how we should intervene and what things we should review about our role as adults. However, when we widen the lens and try to identify the causes of bullying, we can see that many of them originate at home.

Let’s see what they are and how we can change this sad reality that’s experienced in schools.

What do we mean by bullying?

Bullying doesn’t refer to an isolated action or a “prank” in a specific moment. On the contrary, it’s an aggressive, sustained, and deliberate behavior of harassment, threat, subjugation, and humiliation of one person towards another.

Aggressions can be physical (hitting, kicking, pinching), verbal (insults, laughter, jokes) or psychological (humiliation, harassment, ridicule).

As it’s an event that’s prolonged over time, it generally involves several actors, who can play an active role (as the aggressor) or a passive role (as a spectator).

The big problem with this type of violence is that the person who suffers it tends to hide it. They prefer to remain silent for fear of the direct consequences, although other outcomes begin to manifest themselves in their physical, mental, and emotional health.

Some of the most suggestive signs of bullying are the fear of going to school, the frequent use of excuses for absences (such as an alleged illness), a decrease in academic performance, or increased anxiety and nervousness.

A teen suffering from bullying.
Bullying is a type of violence that can be exercised physically, verbally, or psychologically. In all cases, the consequences are quite harmful to the victim and their environment.

You may be interested in: 4 Keys to Identifying School Bullying

What are the causes of bullying?

The approach to bullying can’t be understood in a causal or unilinear way, as it’s a complex phenomenon, in which the bully may possibly be bullied in another context. Let us look at some of the causes of this problem.

1. Family causes

In some cases, the bully may be a witness to violent relationships in their own home and observe the mistreatment between parents. They may even be the one who receives the aggression from a family member.

At the same time, an authoritarian and rigid upbringing can lead to abusive relationships in other areas. The same is true when there’s a lack of limits and an extremely permissive upbringing in the home.

Education that’s not based on good values has a direct influence on the way children relate to others. It can even be one of the causes of bullying.

2. Social causes

What are the messages that socially circulate around violence? What’s the example offered to children when there are disagreements between people and real media battles break out?

Sometimes it seems that violence is the right way to gain recognition and respect from others, especially in group settings. Society, as part of the macro environment of families, is a generator of values and, therefore, also has part of the responsibility in this problem.

Therefore, behaving in a certain way may be validated in one way or another in what children see and hear. Let’s remember that in the first years of life, children learn a lot by imitating the behaviors of their adults of reference.

3. School causes

Perhaps school conflict doesn’t trigger bullying, but it does act as a facilitator and perpetuator of bullying.

For example, the lack of consequences for misbehavior, the absence of rules, or a clear protocol can give the feeling that “nothing happens” if we behave in such a way. But the truth is that the school shouldn’t endorse or be complicit in any way in episodes of violence.

How to intervene against the causes of bullying

Bullying is a frequent problem all over the world. However, it’s preventable, although this requires action at all levels.

Some of the recommendations to address bullying are the following:

  • Talk about bullying at home. It’s important to install the notion early, long before it happens. It can be addressed not only through conversation but also through practical activities or reading children’s books. It’s crucial that we educate in values by example from the time children are young. Respect is transmitted in simple ways, such as not doing to others what we don’t like them to do to us or not using words that can hurt others.
  • Create spaces of trust and dialogue. In this way, your children will know that they can come to you in any circumstance, whether it’s about an issue of their own or someone else’s. This way, you’ll also break with the logic of the “accomplice” or the silent witness.
  • Foster good self-esteem and security in children. Teach your little ones to love and care for themselves. Remind them every day that they’re very valuable and encourage them to ask for help when they need it.
  • Teach them to manage emotions from early childhood. Education that allows them to recognize emotions and teaches them to manage them is a good way for children to avoid the need to “unload” on others. And also, so that they learn to resolve their differences peacefully.
A diverse group of children smiling with their arms around one another.
To educate a more just and egalitarian generation, good values must be instilled from childhood. Respect, empathy, and tolerance are fundamental pillars to sustain change.

Bullying isn’t a school problem

As we’ve seen, bullying is a problem that is expressed at school, but it originates long before schooling. Upon noticing its appearance, it’s important for the educational community to intervene with clear rules and defined protocols, as well as parents and adults of reference. It’s necessary to educate in clear values, within which we must emphasize that respect is a fundamental pillar for good coexistence.

Bullying isn’t something that affects children, but the entire society. The consequences of bullying begin at school, but go beyond its walls; they’re the problems of the future that become visible in mental illnesses, in self-harming acts, in adults who solve problems with violence. For all these reasons, detecting it and intervening in time is more valuable than we think.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Armero Pedreira, P., Bernardino Cuesta, B., & Bonet de Luna, C.. (2011). Acoso escolar. Pediatría Atención Primaria, 13(52), 661-670. Disponible en: https://dx.doi.org/10.4321/S1139-76322011000600016
  • Castillo-Pulido, Luis Evelio (2011). El acoso escolar. De las causas, origen y manifestaciones a la pregunta por el sentido que le otorgan los actores. Magis. Revista Internacional de Investigación en Educación, 4(8),415-428. [fecha de consulta 4 de abril de 2022]. ISSN: 2027-1174. Disponible en: https://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=281021722009

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.