Characteristics of a Bullied Child

There is no single definitive characteristic or set of characteristics that will positively identify which children will be singled out and targeted by bullies. You can't line them up on the first day of kindergarten and identify which kids will be targeted by bullies. But over the years, researchers have been able to pinpoint a few indicators that may increase a child's vulnerability.

Swedish researcher, Dan Olweus, a widely recognized expert on bullying, reports that children who are victims of bullying typically have a few traits in common. These traits include being anxious, insecure, cautious, having low self-esteem, being younger than the attacker, and being reluctant to defend themselves or retaliate when confronted by students who bully them.

In addition, bullied kids tend to have very few friends and may lack age-appropriate social skills. When kids don't have friends, there is no friendship network to back them up and support them against a bully's attacks, which makes them easy targets.


According to the National Mental Health Information Center, 40–75 percent of bullying takes place during breaks in places such as hallways, bathrooms, and during recess. In places where the amount of adult supervision is inconsistent and unreliable, bullying is easy to carry out undetected.

In addition, Olweus notes that bullying victims tend to have overly close relationships with their parents, and their parents can often be described as overprotective. Not being as independent as other kids can cause a child to doubt his own abilities, which undermines his confidence. Surprisingly, physical characteristics such as weight, height, appearance, dress, having braces, or wearing glasses don't appear to be strongly correlated with victimization. But if a child is physically weaker than his peers, his chances of being bullied increase.


If you notice sudden changes in your child's personality, such as unexplained mood swings, crying jags, excessive and uncharacteristic anger, social withdrawal, acting out in school, or refusing to talk to you, she may be the victim of bullying. Don't just ignore it and hope it will go away; chances are it won't.

Passive and Provocative Victims

Passive victims are the children with the above-mentioned traits: non-aggressive, anxious, physically weaker, and not having friends to protect them from being bullied or support them after it happens. Provocative victims are children who are both anxious and aggressive. These kids have poor social skills, limited impulse control, and can inadvertently irritate and alienate their peers. A bully will exploit this to his advantage by pushing the buttons of the victim and provoking an outburst. The bully then gets a good laugh when the teacher punishes the victim for disrupting the class.

Learn ways to increase your child's self-esteem, improve his confidence, and strengthen his friendship bonds. The simple strategies outlined will help keep your child safe from bullies.

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