There is no one single cause of bullying among children; individual, family, peer, school, and community factors can place a child or youth at risk for bullying. These factors work individually, or collectively, to contribute to a child's likelihood of bullying.

  • Family risk factors for bullying:
    • A lack of warmth and involvement on the part of parents.
    • Overly-permissive parenting (including a lack of limits for children’s behavior).
    • A lack of supervision by parents.
    • Harsh, physical discipline.
    • Parent modeling of bullying behavior.1
    • Victimization by older brothers.2
  • Peer risk factors for bullying:
    • Friends who bully.
    • Friends who have positive attitudes about violence.1
    • Some aggressive children who take on high status roles may use bullying as a way to enhance their social power and protect their prestige with peers.
    • Some children with low social status may use bullying as a way to deflect taunting and aggression that is directed towards them, or to enhance their social position with higher status peers.3, 4
  • Other Factors:
    • Bullying thrives in schools where faculty and staff do not address bullying, where there is no policy against bullying, and where there is little supervision of students—especially during lunch, bathroom breaks, and recess.
    • Models of bullying behavior are prevalent throughout society, especially in television, movies, and video games.5
    • When children are aggregated together, they associate with others who are similar to them or who have qualities or characteristics that in some way support their own behaviors.
    • For teenage girls, social aggression can be a way of creating excitement or alleviating boredom. It is also used as a method of gaining attention from other girls in order to secure friendships.6


  1. Stop Bullying Now! U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Children Who Bully
  2. E. Menesini. Is Bullying Learned at Home?
  3. Thomas W. Farmer, Cristin M. Hall. Bullying in School: An Exploration of Peer Group Dynamics.
  4. Christina Salmivalli. Bullying is a Group Phenomenon − What Does It Mean And Why Does It Matter?
  5. Stop Bullying Now! U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bullying Among Children and Youth.
  6. Laurence Owens. Indirect Aggression Amongst Teenage Girls and How Parents Can Help.