Characteristics of Bullies
Western literature describes a bully as a hyperactive child, usually a boy, who targets both sexes by physically/mentally persecuting or harassing them (Lowenstein, 1978). Bullies are easily provoked and they manage to find themselves in attention-seeking situations wherein they can utilize their aggressive nature—usually geared towards their advisers, parents, siblings, and equals (Stephenson & Smith, 1989; Olweus, 1991).
Not to long ago, I handled an interesting case that presented an exceptional attention-seeking situation—a school bus ride. My client was a Grade 4 pupil who was perpetually teased for always reading and keeping to himself. He was also made fun of for being overweight, having a dark completion, and wearing thick glasses. The bully in this example may have taken into consideration that their were no school officials present who could reprimand him as they were in transit and no where near the school’s jurisdiction. Yet what constitutes school jurisdiction? Should not the school bus be also considered under this umbrella? As parents, it is important to be informed or at the very least be aware of the rights of your children against bullying in their respective school handbooks.
Bullies have learned to intimidate because they are powerless at home or in the classroom. In some cases, a number of them have even been abused, terrorized, and violated and may seek to subject others to a similar experience. Frequently, bullies pick on those who possess something they do not—be it wealth, intelligence, affection, and approval (Perry, 2000).
Pearce (1989) suggested that bullies might not like people whom they perceive to be detrimental to their well-being. They may also quickly zero in on those who are inadequate and not likely to retaliate. According to the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP, 1992), bullies are not certain about their position in social groups and may try to overcome this uncertainty by preying on those who are different, inferior, and timid.
The need to feel powerful and in control have been cited in several studies as motivation for bullying behavior (Banks, 2000). This need for power and control is satisfied when the bully inflicts pain on the victim. Another motive is revenge as children of verbally and physically aggressive parents who projected violence as the means of solving issues tended to be bullies (McNamara & McNamara, 1997). From these definitions, the bully seems to want to assert his power and gain recognition/attention because of an underlying feeling of inadequacy.
In summary, the bullies are individuals who want to assert themselves and gain recognition by intimidating those that he perceives as inadequate and incapable of retaliation. It is an act that can happen anywhere (such as a school bus) and by anyone (even parents!).