Bullying: What are the Differences between Boys and Girls? (page 2)

By — Bullying Special Edition Contributor
Updated on Jan 24, 2012

How are Boys Involved in Bullying?


In contrast to girls, boys of any age and ethnic group tend to be physically aggressive (e.g., hit, kick, slap, push, or punch) (1, 2, 9, 11, 14, 20). Also, research shows that physical abuse tends to occur more often among boys than girls at all educational levels (e.g., elementary, high school, college) (13, 15, 16). In addition, male college students tend to bully and be bullied through physical and verbal forms of bullying (e.g., name-calling) more often than college girls (15).

Also boys may be more accepting of bullying, than are girls (17). That is, boys may like a girl even if she bullies others and like other boys who bully. Girls may still befriend boys who bully, but tend to dislike girls who bully. At the core of these differences are children’s and, indeed, societal beliefs about acceptable behaviors for boys and girls. Many people may see bullying among boys as “just boys being boys”. So, girls may accept this attitude and tolerate boys’ bullying. However, girls may be less accepting of girls who bully if it is seen as overly aggressive.

Effects of Bullying: Signs That A Child Is Being Bullied

All types of bullying may have a tremendous impact on targeted children. They may feel depressed, anxious, eat or sleep less or more, have difficulty concentrating on school work, have trouble making friends with others, lie, steal, run away from home, avoid school or even consider suicide (1, 3, 13, 18). Children may not want to tell anyone if they feel they deserve this type of treatment, caused it, or that telling would make it worse (which the bully may have threatened). There may also be long-term effects of bullying on bullies themselves (13). Some children who bully at a young age may continue to use aggression and control in other relationships as they grow older (13). For example, boys may start dating earlier than other boys and be aggressive in these relationships. Also, as adults they may be aggressive towards colleagues, use aggression with their own children, and engage in criminal acts including sexual assault. Girls involved in significant bullying in the early grade school years may experience depression over a long term, attempt suicide, or develop an eating disorder (19).

Again, individual men and women, and boys and girls experience bullying in unique ways. Research has documented some of the differences mentioned in this article. It is important to keep in mind, however, that boys may also experience indirect forms of bullying, and girls may experience direct forms. In addition, children involved in bullying may both be targeted and exert aggression themselves.

The Importance for Parents: What Parents Can Do To Prevent Bullying

For parents, it’s important to recognize signs in their sons and daughters that they may be involved in some or many forms of bullying and to address these experiences as soon as they arise. For example, checking in with children at the end of the day can include conversation about academic subjects as well as peer relationships. Questions such as the following, may encourage children to discuss their friendship experiences with their parents:

  1. ‘What did you do at recess today?”, or
  2. “How is your friend (name) doing these days?”

When children express negative emotions about their peers it is helpful to acknowledge these feelings, encourage them that it’s normal to feel this way, and to discuss practical strategies together, especially those that the child considers most helpful.

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