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6 Common Types of Bullies

Learn how to recognize traits and characteristics of bullies

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Updated November 04, 2012

6 Common Types of Bullies
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Researchers have been studying the phenomenon of bullying for years. What they have discovered is that not all bullies are created equal. In fact, bullies can vary greatly from one person to another. They have different styles, personalities, goals and behaviors. And their motivations for and methods of bullying are all different.

By being aware of the common types of bullies, you will be better equipped to help your child in any situation. But remember, not all bullies will fit neatly into a category. Some bullies will fall into several categories and some may appear to be in a category all their own.

Here is an overview of the six most common types of bullies your child might encounter.

Bully Victims

Bully victims often rise up after being bullied. They bully others weaker than them because they too have been bullied. Their goal usually is to regain a sense of power and control in their lives.

This type of bully is very common. In fact, a large number of kids who bully others have been bullied themselves. Their bullying is a way of retaliating for the pain they are feeling. Other times, the bully victim comes from a home riddled with domestic violence or suffers abuse from an older sibling. So in these cases, bullying is a learned behavior.

Most bully victims are either loners or fall at the bottom of the social ladder at school. This fact adds to the sense of powerlessness and anger they feel. Consequently, their bullying often appears hostile, which seems to keep the bully victim in a position of low social status and perpetuates the cycle of bully victim.

Popular / Aggressive Bullies

Popular bullies have big egos. They are confident, aggressive and condescending. They usually have a group of followers or supporters and may feel like they rule the school.

Additionally, popular bullies have a sense of entitlement that can stem from their popularity, their size, their upbringing or their socio-economic status. They thrive on the physical power and control they have over their victims and may boast about their bullying. Most often they bully others through physical acts like pushing someone around, taking their books or pinning them against lockers.

These bullies are sometimes the school’s star athlete or perceived school leader. They thrive on the attention and power they get from bullying. Other teens often tolerate this type of bully because they would rather be accepted than bullied.

Relational Bullies

The relational bully is usually a somewhat popular student who enjoys deciding who is accepted at school and who isn’t. Excluding, isolating and ostracizing others are the most common weapons used by this type of bully. Most often, the relational bully will use only verbal or emotional bullying to maintain control.

Relational bullies also maintain their power by using rumors, gossip, labels and name-calling. Typically, they target others they are jealous of or they feel are socially unacceptable. Maintaining popularity is the key reason for relational aggression . The relational bully will do anything to be part of the “in crowd.”

Serial Bullies

The serial bully is another type of bully often found in popular circles. These bullies are systematic, controlled and calculated in their approach. But parents, teachers and administrators may have no idea what the serial bully is capable of.

On the outside, this type of bully appears sweet, charming and charismatic to authority figures. But on the inside they can be cold and calculating and tend to inflict emotional pain on their victims over long periods of time. Sometimes serial bullies will use physical bullying but only if they can be sure they won’t be caught.

Serial bullies also are skilled manipulators and liars. Their sweet and nice persona is just another way to manipulate situations to their liking. They are able to twist facts and situations to make themselves look innocent or to get out of trouble when confronted. In fact, serial bullies are often so skilled at deception that their victims often are afraid to speak up, convinced that no one will ever believe them.

Group Bullies

Bullies, who fall in this category, are typically part of a group and have a pack mentality when they are together. They tend to bully as a group but behave much differently when they are alone – even if they are alone with the victim. Usually, group bullies imitate the leader of the group and just follow along.

Because kids feel insulated when they are in a group, they often feel freer to say and do things they wouldn’t do otherwise. They also feel less responsibility for their actions because “everyone is doing it.” This is a very dangerous type of bullying because things can quickly escalate out of control.

Indifferent Bullies

Indifferent bullies are often unable to feel empathy. As a result, they can often appear cold, unfeeling and detached and have very little, if any, remorse for what they do to others.

These types of bullies, although less common than the other types of bullies, are often the most dangerous. They are bullying for the sheer enjoyment of seeing another person suffer and they are not deterred by the possible consequences. Additionally, indifferent bullies are often vicious and have deep psychological problems that need to be addressed by a professional.

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