Some Myths and Facts about Bullies and Victims (page 2)

By — Bullying Special Edition Contributor
Updated on Feb 11, 2009

Myth #6: Bullying involves only perpetrators and victims.

Many parents, teachers, and students view bullying as a problem that is limited to bullies and victims. Yet, there is much research showing that bullying involves more than the bully-victim dyad (9). For example, bullying incidents are typically public (rather than private) events that have witnesses. Studies based on playground observations have found that in most incidents, at least four other peers were present as witnesses, bystanders, assistants to bullies, reinforcers, or defenders of victims (10). One observation study found that in more than 50% of the observed incidents of bullying, peers reinforced bullies by passively watching. In only about 25% of the incidents did witnesses support the victim by directly intervening, distracting, or discouraging the bully (10).

Understanding facts versus myths about bullies and victims is important for intervention. The problems of victims and bullies are not the same. Victims of harassment need interventions that help them develop more positive self-views and that teach them not to blame themselves for their experiences with harassment. Interventions for bullies do not need to focus on self-esteem. Rather, bullies need to learn strategies that help them control their anger and their tendency to blame other people for their problems. And peers need to learn that bullying is a whole school problem for which everyone is responsible. There is no such thing as an innocent bystander.

Additional Resources

U.S. Department of Education Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS)
Initiative A federal grant-awarding program that allows schools districts to apply for funds to support programs that promote a safe school environment.

UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools/School Mental Health Project
This website allows access to a clearinghouse of resources for enhancing mental health in schools. Among the resources that can be accessed are consumer information outlets, national organizations whose mission focuses on mental health in schools, relevant government agencies, listservs, and electronic journals and newsletters.

For further reading
Hyman, I., Kay, B., Tabori, A., Weber, M., Mahon, M., & Cohen, I. (2006). Bullying: Theory, research, and interventions. In C. Evertson & C. Weinstein (Eds.), Handbook of classroom management: Research, practice, and contemporary issues (pp. 855-884). Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.

A comprehensive and up-to-date review of the topic of bullying in schools. There is a particularly relevant section on interventions to address school bullying


  1. Rodkin, P., Farmer, T., Pearl, R., & Van Acker, R. (2000). Heterogeneity of popular boys: Antisocial and prosocial configurations. Developmental Psychology, 36, 14-24.
  2. Juvonen, J., Graham, S., & Schuster, M. (2003). Bullying among young adolescents: The strong, the weak, and the troubled. Pediatrics, 112, 1231-1237.
  3. Baumeister, R. (1996). Should schools try to boost self-esteem? Beware the dark side. American Educator, 20, 14-19.
  4. Baumeister, R., Smart, L., & Boden, J. (1996). Relations of threatened egotism to violence and aggression: The dark side of high self-esteem. Psychological Review, 103, 5-33.
  5. Menon, M., Tobin, D., Corby, B., Menon, M., Hodges, E., & Perry, D. (2007). The developmental costs of high self-esteem for antisocial children. Child Development, 78, 1627-1639.
  6. Schwartz, D., Dodge, K. A., & Coie, J. D. (1993). The emergence of chronic peer victimization in boys' play groups. Child Development, 64, 1755-1772.
  7. Leary, M., Kowalski, R., Smith, L., & Philllips, S. (2003). Teasing, rejection, and violence: Case studies of the school shootings. Aggressive Behavior, 29, 202-214.
  8. Kochenderfer-Ladd, B., & Waldrop, J. (2001). Chronicity and instability of children’s peer victimization experiences as predictors of loneliness and social satisfaction trajectories. Child Development, 72, 134-151.
  9. Salmivalli, C. (2001). Group view on victimization: Empirical findings and their implications. In J. Juvonen & S. Graham (Eds.), Peer Harassment in School: The Plight of the Vulnerable and Victimized (pp. 398-419). New York: Guilford Press.
  10. O’Connell, P., Pepler, D. and Craig, W. (1999). Peer involvement in bullying: insights and challenges for intervention. Journal of Adolescence, 22, 437 – 452.
  11. O’Connell, P., Pepler, D. and Craig, W. (1999). Peer involvement in bullying: insights and challenges for intervention. Journal of Adolescence, 22, 437 – 452.
View Full Article
Add your own comment
DIY Worksheets
Make puzzles and printables that are educational, personal, and fun!
Matching Lists
Quickly create fun match-up worksheets using your own words.
Word Searches
Use your own word lists to create and print custom word searches.
Crossword Puzzles
Make custom crossword puzzles using your own words and clues.