What Are the Differences Between School Violence and Bullying

It's essential to know the differences between school violence and bullying in order to correctly identify cases of bullying.
What Are the Differences Between School Violence and Bullying
Ana Couñago

Written and verified by the psychologist Ana Couñago.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

The implementation of a good atmosphere at school is a decisive factor in enhancing the students’ academic and emotional abilities. Unfortunately, this is far from becoming a reality. There’s a high prevalence of cases of violence, aggression, and bullying in the classroom, and this topic is widely featured on the media and social networks. However, to identify these problems, we must first be clear about the differences between school violence and bullying.

We often link aggression and conflict among students to bullying. However, this isn’t always the case. In order to classify a case of bullying, the violent behavior must fulfill some specific characteristics.

“Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of evolution. Until we cease to harm other living beings, we are still savages.”

– Thomas Alva Edison –

What Are the Differences Between School Violence and Bullying

Definition of bullying

Bullying refers to situations in which a student receives frequent intimidation and harassment by one or more of his or her peers over a long period of time. We can also find other broader definitions of this phenomenon, such as that of psychologist Dan Olweus, who defines bullying as:

“The victimization or abuse between equals through physically and/or psychologically intimidating behavior performed by one student against another, who they choose as the victim of repeated attacks. This action, both negative and intentional, places the victims in a position from which it is practically impossible to escape. The continuity of this treatment has clearly negative effects on the victims: a decrease in their self-esteem, states of anxiety and even depressive conditions. All of these make it difficult for them to integrate into the school environment and develop their learning skills in a normal way”.

– Dan Olweus –

How do you detect a bullying incident, and not confuse it with other violent or aggressive situations? Well, you need to take into account four keys areas that characterize cases of bullying.

  • The violence is intentional
  • The actions are repeated over time
  • There is an imbalance of physical, social, and psychological power between the bully and the victim.
  • The bullying is personal and individual; it’s always done to the same child.

Differences between school violence and bullying

According to psychologist Isabel Iborra and educator Ángela Serrano, the differences between school violence and bullying are:

What Are the Differences Between School Violence and Bullying
  • School violence is any type of violence that takes place in schools. This aggressive behavior can be directed at students, teachers, or objects in the school. Moreover, such violence can be a one-off situation or occasional, giving rise to different categories of school violence, such as:
    • Physical abuse
    • Emotional abuse
    • Negligence
    • Sexual abuse
    • Financial abuse
    • Vandalism
  • Bullying, on the other hand, is a type of school aggression carried out in an extreme way. Its main characteristics are its serious consequences and its duration. It consists of psychological, physical, and emotional abuse carried out among students at school. The aggressor intends to emotionally and intellectually intimidate, humiliate, subdue, crush, and frighten the victim. They aim to control, attack, and destroy other people, thus obtaining recognition and attention. It’s a relationship based on exclusion and contempt for others.

Therefore, it can be said that:

  • Bullying is between equals, with one or more students picking on one or more other children.
  • School violence is towards students, teachers or objects.
  • Bullying occurs repeatedly over time.
  • School violence can be a one-off situation.


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.

  • Iborra, I. y Serrano, A. (2005). Violencia entre compañeros en la escuela. Centro Reina Sofía para el estudio de la violencia. España: Goaprint, S.L.
  • Olweus, D. (1998). Conductas de acoso y amenaza entre escolares. Madrid: Ediciones Morata.

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