Bullying has become a very common behavior in children especially in schools. It basically involves abusive treatment between children which may be verbal harassment or physical assault. Bullying is done on grounds of differences in race, sex or ability of the person in question.
Research has shown that there are a variety of reasons which makes certain kids more vulnerable to bullying than others. Initially, it was thought that most bullied children were those with characteristic physical abnormalities. However, it has recently emerged that emotional and social imbalances are the leading characteristics of bullying targets.
Despite the fact that such characteristics may differ from child to child, it is the common feature of difference that makes the target children get noticed by the bullies (McIntyre, and Franks, 1996, p. 1). However, such differences do not necessary lead to bullying. This is because the bullies look for that person who responds to their treatment in such a way that they feel powerful over that particular individual. Hence, a child be different in some aspect but be confident enough not to be affected by such treatment from bullies.
Passive children are easily picked up by the bullies since they are easy targets to intimidate. Many children especially those in elementary and high schools are bullied due to power differential. The bullies therefore target those that they perceive as being weak although this perception differs from person to person depending on one’s capabilities and physical characteristics.
Characteristics for bully targets
As discussed above, physical abnormalities are some of the leading reasons why children get bullied either at school or at home. One of the most important factors on physical appearance is body size where some children are fat while others are skinny. Studies have confirmed that obese is one of the most sought characteristics in children by bullies.
Such children may not necessarily be obese but a little fat than the rest of the children which makes them different form the rest. Most of these children tend to have reduced self esteem which paves more way for the bullies to treat them in an abusive manner. Such treatment may involve teasing them about being ugly due to overweight or clothes not fitting them so well, among other things.
Similarly, very skinny children may get similar intimidation from their bullies. This characteristic may be adequate on its own to result to bullying despite other factors such as social class or race (Carpenter, and Ferguson, 2011, p. 1). In other cases where overweight children are confident of themselves, they turn out to be the bullies especially towards those with small bodies regardless of other factors such as grade in school. Surprisingly, cute children do get bullied too.
For instance, a cute and smart boy who has the attention of all girls in school is more likely to be bullied by fellow boys out of jealousy and envy. Similarly, a cute girl may be bullied by fellow girls who feel that they are less beautiful than she is. Another very common characteristic of bully targets is discipline where disciplines and well behaved children are always getting bullied by the ill-mannered ones.
Besides different physical appearances, bullies also tend to harass children who are vulnerable in one aspect or another. For example, differences in tastes and preferences such as in clothing and food stuffs. However, as we all know, such differences occur as a result of different family backgrounds where the poor children have no choice but to use cheap clothing and foods compared to the wealthy ones who, in such cases, turn to be the bullies. The smart children are attacked equally to the slow learners in school.
The smart ones are bullied by the dumb ones and vice versa. Lack of skills and the ability to perform certain tasks may as well lead to bullying. Victims of bullying are made more vulnerable to this behavior due to some contributing factors. One of the most important of these factors is lack of good social skills where the victims are poor in interacting with other children in a productive manner.
Such victims are characterized by isolating themselves during social activities such as plays, charity work or carrying out the day to day chores either at home or at school. They tend to do things on their own rather than as a group. It is this lack of interaction awareness that makes such children be viewed as odd by their peers and consequently leads to abusive treatment (Carpenter, and Ferguson, 2011, p. 1).
The other common factor is the lack of friends in victims of bullying where one has no or very few friends. This trait may be directly related to the first one of poor social skills. Such victims are more targeted since they have no friends’ support when being bullied. On the same note, new arrivals in schools are also major targets since they are not yet used to the school environment are likely to have no friends for support. Another contributing factor is inability of one to confront the other for intimidation behaviors.
This encourages the bullies since they know that the person is not assertive. Non-assertive victims are characterized by reactions such as crying when intimidated or giving in to the bullies’ demands without showing any aggression reactions. Other may try as much as possible to avoid the bullies to the extent of missing classes in school. Such responses strengthen and increase the morale of the bullies to continue committing the act.
Other traits that make children vulnerable to bullying are issues related to mental health. Many children suffering from one of the various mental disorders have characteristic behaviors that are completely different form the normal behavior of children. Such disorders include attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Other personality traits such as shyness and withdrawal from social functions may as well make good targets for bullies.
Other research shows that family traits from the parents can lead to vulnerability in bullying (Cohen, 1995). For instance, a male child whose father has been absent in his life and whose mother is over protective and controlling is more likely to be a victim of bullying. On the other hand, female children who make good targets for bullying have been shown to have mothers who are not supportive of them as they grow.
This lack of a mother’s guidance makes such children have poor social skills in forming relationships with their peers and this makes them vulnerable to bullying. Quick temperament may also form a good trait for bullying targets since the bullies will be almost sure that the person will get angry and react, which is what they like seeing in their victims.
A child who has been a previous victim of bullying is also a good target for other bullies. This is because a victim of bullying has certain characteristics which are easily noticed by other bullies. The most common of them include anxiousness, the feeling of insecurity amongst fellow peers, being very self cautious trying to avoid interaction with the bullies and the common lack of self esteem (Rigby, 2003).
Children who are much younger than the rest of their school mates are equally targeted by bullies, not only at school but also at home by other older children. In fact, most of the characteristics that bullies look for in targets are as a result of previous bullying which leaves the children afraid of other people and makes them loose confidence in themselves.
A previously bullied child is more likely to be reluctant in defending or confronting another bully than one who is freshly being bullied. Similarly, bullied children tend to have few friends and are less involved in social interactions and as discussed above, these traits are easily noticed by bullies who then see such children as easy targets. Other studies have shown that parents play a certain role in making their children vulnerable to bullying.
This occurs when parents are overprotective of their children to the point of not allowing them to do things on their own due to the fear that they may fail. This in turn makes such children doubt their capabilities in life which is the key factor in the development of traits vulnerable for bullying. Still on the same note, other children who are independent of themselves will easily bully such children, not necessarily physically, but through verbal intimidation.
Other bullies look for emotional traits in their targets such as children who have emotionally drained due to problems at home or with their studies (Noll, and Carter, 2000). Although most of the characteristics of potential bully victims are centered on lack of self esteem and inability to defend oneself, other bullies may look for targets that have all the above characteristics except that they are aggressive, such targets will try to retaliate at the bullies.
This reaction of aggressiveness is what makes such bullies more and more enthusiastic at going to extreme actions towards the targets. Targets with this trait may as well receive different kind of treatment from their bullies especially that of using tricks only to get them into trouble with the teachers or even their parents.
Bullying in children especially those in school is very common especially among boys. It involves abusive treatment either physically or emotionally through verbal abuse. Children who are bullied have common characteristics which make them easy targets by the bullies. Most bullies look for certain physical traits such as body size, appearance, kind of clothes other children wear or even physical impairments and social status in the society. However, the most important determinant of a target for bullying is self esteem (Cohen, 1995).
All the other traits can only appear if a child lacks self esteem. When that happens, the child will lack the confidence to associate with others socially, lacks friends and spends most time alone. In addition, the reaction that children give after being bullied determines whether the bullies will continue or not.
This is because bullies want their targets to react in such a way that will make them feel superior and powerful. Therefore, as long as children are sure and confident about themselves, such treatments will not trigger any reaction and this puts off the bullies.
Carpenter, D. and Ferguson, J. (2011). Most Likely Targets. Retrieved June 24, 2011, from,
Cohen, R. (1995). Students resolving conflict: peer mediated in schools. Glenview, IL: Goodyear Books
McIntyre, T. and Franks, A. (1996). Dealing with bullying. Retrieved June 24, 2011, form,
Noll, K. and Carter, J. (2000). Taking the bully by the horns.
Rigby, K. (2003). New perspectives on bullying