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Types of Bullying

Physical Bullying

Physical bullying is the most obvious form of bullying. It occurs when kids use physical actions to gain power and control over their targets. Physical bullies tend to be bigger, stronger, and more aggressive than their peers.

Physical bullying includes kicking, hitting, punching, slapping, shoving, and other physical attacks.


Unlike other forms of bullying, physical bullying is the easiest to identify. As a result, it is most likely what people think of when they think of bullying. Additionally, it has historically received more attention from schools than other more subtle forms of bullying.

Verbal Bullying

Perpetrators of verbal bullying use words, statements, and name-calling to gain power and control over a target. Typically, verbal bullies will use relentless insults to belittle, demean, and hurt another person. They choose their targets based on the way they look, act, or behave. It’s also common for verbal bullies to target kids with special needs.

Verbal bullying is often very difficult to identify because attacks almost always occur when adults aren’t around. As a result, it is often one person’s word against another’s. Additionally, many adults feel that things kids say don’t impact others significantly. As a result, they usually tell the victim of bullying to “ignore it.” But verbal bullying should be taken seriously.

Research has shown that verbal bullying and name-calling has serious consequences and can leave deep emotional scars.

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Cyber Bullying

When a tween or a teen uses the Internet, a smartphone, or other technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person, it is cyberbullying. If an adult is involved in the harassment, it is called cyber-harassment or cyberstalking.

Examples of cyberbullying include posting hurtful images, making online threats, and sending hurtful emails or texts. Because teens and tweens are always plugged in, cyberbullying is a growing issue among young people. It’s also becoming more widespread because bullies can harass their targets with much less risk of being caught.

Cyberbullies often say things that they do not have the courage to say face-to-face. Technology makes them feel anonymous, insulated, and detached from the situation. To the targets of cyberbullying, it feels invasive and never-ending. Bullies can get to them anytime and anywhere, often in the safety of their own homes. As a result, the consequences of cyberbullying are significant.

Relational Aggression

Relational aggression is a sneaky and insidious type of bullying that often goes unnoticed by parents and teachers. Sometimes referred to as emotional bullying, relational aggression is a type of social manipulation where tweens and teens try to hurt their peers or sabotage their social standing.

Relational bullies often ostracize others from a group, spread rumors, manipulate situations, and break confidences. The goal of a relationally aggressive bully is to increase their own social standing by controlling or bullying another person.

In general, girls tend to use relational aggression more than boys, especially between fifth and eighth grades. These girls are often called mean girls or frenemies. A teen or tween on the receiving end of relational aggression is likely to be teased, insulted, ignored, excluded and intimidated.

Although relational aggression is common in middle school, it is not limited to tweens. In fact, some bullying bosses and other workplace bullies also engage in relational aggression.


Sexual Bullying

Sexual bullying consists of repeated, harmful, and humiliating actions that target a person sexually. Examples include sexual name-calling, crude comments, vulgar gestures, uninvited touching, sexual propositioning, and pornographic materials. A bully might make a crude comment about a peer's appearance, attractiveness, sexual development, or sexual activity.

In extreme cases, sexual bullying opens the door to sexual assault. Girls are often the targets of sexual bullying both by boys and by other girls. Boys might touch them inappropriately, make crude comments about their bodies, or proposition them. Girls might call other girls names like “slut” or “tramp," make insulting comments about their appearance or body, and engage in slut-shaming.

Sexting also can lead to sexual bullying. If a girl sends a photo of herself to a boyfriend, he may share that photo widely if they break up. She becomes the target of sexual bullying because people make fun of her body, call her crude names, and make vulgar comments about her. Some boys may even see this as an open invitation to proposition her or sexually assault her.

Prejudicial Bullying

Prejudicial bullying is based on prejudices tweens and teens have toward people of different races, religions, or sexual orientation. This type of bullying can encompass all the other types of bullying. When prejudicial bullying occurs, kids are targeting others who are different from them and singling them out.

Oftentimes, this type of bullying is severe and can open the door to hate crimes. Any time a child is bullied for his sexual orientation, race, or religion, it should be reported.

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