Common Types of Bullies
Bullies have different styles, personalities, goals, and behaviors. Their motivations for and methods of bullying are all different. And not all bullies will fit neatly into a category. Some bullies will fall into several categories and some may appear to be in a category all their own.
Bully-victims often rise up after being bullied. They bully others weaker than them because they, too, have been bullied. Their goal usually is to regain a sense of power and control in their lives.
This type of bully is very common. In fact, a large number of kids who bully others have been bullied themselves by peers. Their bullying is a way of retaliating for the pain they are feeling. Other times the bully-victim comes from a home with domestic violence or suffers abuse from an older sibling. In these cases, bullying is a learned behavior.
Most bully-victims are loners or fall at the bottom of the social ladder at school. This fact adds to the sense of powerlessness and anger they feel. Consequently, they often appear hostile, which can cause them to be unpopular. This, in turn, perpetuates the cycle of the bully victim.
Popular bullies have big egos. They are confident and condescending. They usually have a group of followers and may feel like they rule the school. These bullies have a sense of entitlement that can stem from their popularity, size, upbringing, or socioeconomic status. They thrive on the physical power and control they have over their victims and may boast about their bullying.
Popular boys most often bully others through physical acts like pushing someone around, taking their books, or pinning them against lockers. Popular girls are more likely to use relational aggression. They spread rumors, are manipulative, and often exclude others.
Popular bullies are sometimes the school’s star athlete or perceived school leader. They thrive on the attention and power they get from bullying. Peers often tolerate this type of bully because they would rather be accepted than bullied.
The relational bully is usually a somewhat-popular student who enjoys deciding who is accepted at school and who isn’t. Excluding, isolating, and ostracizing others are the most common weapons used by this type of bully. Most often, the relational bully will use only verbal or emotional bullying to maintain control. Many times, mean girls are relational bullies.
Relational bullies also maintain their power by using rumors, gossip, labels, and name-calling. Typically, they target others because they are jealous or feel they are socially unacceptable. Maintaining popularity is the key reason for relational aggression. The relational bully will do anything to be part of the "in crowd."
The serial bully is another type of bully often found in popular circles. These bullies are systematic, controlled, and calculated in their approach. Parents, teachers, and administrators may have no idea what a serial bully is capable of.
This type of bully appears sweet, charming, and charismatic to authority figures. But, they can be cold and calculating and tend to inflict emotional pain on their victims over long periods of time. Sometimes serial bullies will use physical bullying, but only if they can be sure they won’t be caught.
Serial bullies are skilled manipulators and liars and are usually fake friends. Their sweet and nice persona is just another way to manipulate situations to their liking.
They are able to twist facts and situations to make themselves look innocent or to get out of trouble when confronted. In fact, serial bullies are often so skilled at deception that their victims often are afraid to speak up, convinced that no one will ever believe them.
Bullies in this category are part of a group and have a pack mentality when they are together. They tend to bully as a group but behave much differently when they are alone—even if they are alone with the victim. Usually, group bullies are cliques that imitate the leader of the group and just follow along.
Because kids feel insulated when they are in a group, they often feel free to say and do things they wouldn’t do otherwise. They also feel less responsible for their actions because "everyone is doing it." This is a very dangerous type of bullying because things quickly can escalate out of control.
Indifferent bullies are often unable to feel empathy. As a result, they can often appear cold, unfeeling, and detached and have very little, if any, remorse for what they do to others. These types of bullies, although less common than the other types of bullies, are often the most dangerous.
Indifferent bullies are bullying for the sheer enjoyment of seeing another person suffer. They are not deterred by disciplinary actions. Additionally, indifferent bullies are often vicious and have deep psychological problems that need to be addressed by a professional. Traditional bullying intervention does not usually bring about change in their bullying.