What is Bullying?


What is Bullying?

The meaning of bullying can blur in the face of inappropriate cultural induction and societal norm. Some have adopted the revised and reviewed description for bullying. The mislabel brings disfunction. What then is bullying?

by Chinyere Nwosu

December 2021


What is bullying?

Bulling is a repeated, targeted, aggressive behaviour towards someone that uses force, threats, teasing, and embarrassment to have power over the target.

Going by the definition, bullying is

  • Targeted – bullying is not a mistake. It is a planned and deliberate act of violence towards another. The victim is selected for some reason by the aggressor.
  • Aggressive – bullying is hurtful and affects the target in unhealthy ways.
  • Repeated – A one-off issue can easily be excused as a mistake or not bullying. However, bullying is never really ‘one-off’ in nature. The act is repeated many times. Over time it may even appear as the definition of the relationship between the bully and the bullied, which may lead other people to turn a blind eye, and the act is encouraged, enhanced.
  • Has imbalance of power – to be considered bullying, there has to be a power imbalance between the bully and the bullied. Power imbalance may be in the form of
    • position of authority,
    • physical strength,
    • age,
    • access to embarrassing information,
    •  wealth, or
    •  popularity.
  • Both the bully and the bullied may have serious, lasting problems (Stopbullying.gov)


Types of bullying

There are four types of bullying

(a) Verbal bullying – Uses words to hurt the target. Teasing, embarrassing, name-calling, cat-calls, disseminating fake stories to raise a scandal, inappropriate sexual comments, etc all fall under this category.


(b) Social bullying – This is excluding the target from social interactions within their social circle. It also involves hurting someone’s relationships. For instance, when children within a neighbourhood come out to play in the arena every evening, one is excluded from the games to please another (may be the ring leader). Another example is a boss at work mobilizing staff members against a colleague, thereby excluding them from appropriate social interaction with others. Therefore, spreading rumours about someone, embarrassing someone in public, asking people not to associate with a particular person, etc are forms of social bullying.


(c) Physical bullying – Applying force and hitting someone to inflict pain to assert your superiority or perceived superiority over them. It also includes harming the target’s possessions. Hitting, kicking, spitting, pushing, taking, or breaking someone’s things are forms of physical bullying.


(d) Cyberbullying – When these aggressive acts are perpetrated online via text messages, chats, emails, or social media, it is referred to as cyberbullying.



What bullying is not


Many have given bullying alternative names like – induction, eye-opener, toughening, pranks, and discipline. Sadly, many have accepted these terms as the defining terms for such acts. Therefore bullying is always around us, masquerading as an accepted societal norm and even celebrated. When the bullied swallow the pain and do nothing about it, he is applauded and seen as tough for “chesting” the violence. (Chesting – a street term in Nigeria that means that you are strong and can take pain without breaking).

Bullying is not a prank, neither is it discipline.



Why people bully others


Research shows that people bully for power, popularity, payback, and pleasure. Research also shows that some people partake in this act due to peer pressure and family issues. Some project their pains to others while others exhibit the behaviour modeled by the adults around them. Bullying can also arise as a result of prejudices. People bully those who are different in some way. They judge the target from their stereotypical perspective. Bullying can arise due to envy and jealousy.


People sometimes support and encourage it because of lack of understanding, to save themselves from becoming the victim if the bully is in a position of authority or holds some form of power over them, or just for laughs since it may sometimes appear entertaining.



Where and when bullying happens

Bullying can occur anywhere

– In the playground.

– In the school building and classes.

– In the hostel.

– At a social event or travelling school events.

– A home.

– Within the neighbourhood.

– In a workplace.


Anyone – child, teen, youth, adult – may be the bully or the target.



Available data on youth and adult bullying


School Crime Supplement – National Crime Victimization Survey – National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice, 2019

Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System  – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019

Forbes report on the rise in workplace bullying, 2019

¼ UK employees bullied at work – SME Loans, 2020

2021 WBI U.S Workplace Bullying Survey, Workplace Bullying Institute, 2021




1 Comment
  • Lizzette Kundinger
    Posted at 00:22h, 09 April Reply

    I really enjoyed reading this post, thank you! Fantastic job!

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