The Fundamentals of Bullying Prevention

Learn more about why people bully and various bullying prevention strategies to keep yourself and others safe.

Table of Contents

What is Bullying?

Bullying can happen to anyone at any age. However, bullying appears to be most prevalent around the ages of 12-18 years old. 1 in 5 high school students reported experiencing some form of bullying. These high rates of bullying are the reason why bullying prevention is so important.1

Bullying is repeated patterns of unwanted and harmful behavior that involves deliberately harming and humiliating others. 

Bullying often involves a power imbalance, with the bully targeting someone who is perceived as smaller, weaker, and more vulnerable.2

Bullying Prevention

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Bullying Prevention

To put it simply, bullying is a type of physical or verbal abuse towards another individual or the use of manipulation or aggression used to control. Bullying prevention can start with understanding the reasons and motivation for the behavior. 

This article will explore why people bully others, the different types of bullying, and the various bullying prevention strategies you can use to keep yourself and others safe.

Overview: What is Bullying and What are the Various Types?

Why Do People Bully?

There is no one reason or factor that determines why people bully. But there are several possible factors that might contribute to why someone engages in bullying behavior. 

Understanding these factors might help you develop a bullying prevention strategy. Some of the common reasons for bullying are detailed below.


This may be one of the most significant factors in bullying behavior. 

In fact, studies show that a parent or someone in a child’s household has either physically, mentally, or sexually abused 60% of those who bully. Bullying may be a way that the individual is processing the abuse.3

Insecurity or Lack of Self-Esteem

Feelings of insecurity or lack of self-esteem are also significant underlying factors that contribute to bullying. 

People may engage in abusive and harmful behavior to feel a sense of control and power. They decide to pick on someone else in order to feel better about themselves.

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure may play a role in the behavior of a bully. The pressure of wanting to fit in and be accepted can lead to harmful behavior. 

Peer pressure is typically seen as a problem for kids and adolescents, but anyone at any age can be susceptible to peer pressure.

A Mental Health Condition or Personality Disorder

Not all people who have a mental health condition or personality disorder will bully, and not all bullies have mental health or personality disorders. 

However, there are some mental health conditions that may contribute more to bullying behavior. These could include narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder.

Personality disorders may lead to bullying behavior due to:4

  • Lack of empathy
  • Excessive lying
  • Manipulation
  • Lack of remorse
  • Difficulty controlling behaviors
  • Feel deserving of privilege or special treatment
  • Excessive sense of self-importance


Feeling jealous of another person may increase the likelihood of engaging in bullying behavior. Someone may be likely to bully a person who has something he or she wants. This could be anything physical or non-physical.
Understanding the reasons behind the behaviors may be the first step in bullying prevention.

How to Deal with Jealousy Without Bullying

Types of Bullying

There are many different types of bullying that can occur. Some types are more obvious than others. Understanding the type of bullying that’s happening will determine the type of bullying prevention needed. 

There are six categories that bullying behavior may fall into, all of which are detailed below.

Physical Bullying

Physical bullying is the most obvious type of bullying. It involves hurting someone’s body or possessions. This type of behavior might involve:5
  • Hitting
  • Kicking
  • Pushing
  • Spitting
  • Breaking possessions
  • Rude or inappropriate hand gestures
Studies have shown that males are more likely to be involved in physical bullying both as victims and as perpetrators6

Verbal Bullying

Verbal bullying involves using spoken or written words to insult or victimize another person. This type of behavior can be difficult to spot as it is typically done when no authority figure is around. 

This type of bullying can often be overlooked as teasing among friends, making it difficult to combat.7


Cyberbullying happens online or via electronic devices. With the increase in electronic devices and social media, cyberbullying has become much more common. It’s also difficult to prevent since it can be done from anywhere. 

Cyberbullying can occur through:8

  • Social media
  • Text messaging or messaging apps
  • Direct messaging 
  • Email
  • Online chat or message boards
Research done by the Cyberbullying Research Center has shown that 15% of 9 to 12-year-olds and 37% of 13 to 17-year-olds have experienced cyberbullying at some point in their lives.9

Social Bullying

Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting or harming someone’s reputation. It can include:
  • Embarrassing the person in public
  • Spreading rumors
  • Leaving someone out on purpose
  • Telling others not to be friends with that person
This type of bullying is associated with “mean girls,” and girls are more likely to be victims of this behavior than boys. However, both boys and girls are equally as likely to be perpetrators of social bullying.10

Sexual Bullying

This form of bullying involves:
  • Sexual comments
  • Sexual jokes or name-calling
  • Crude gestures
  • Spreading sexual rumors
  • Touching or grabbing someone without permission
  • Sending sexual pictures or videos
A 2019 study found that 81% of women and 43% of men had experienced sexual bullying or harassment at some point in their lives.11

Prejudicial Bullying

Prejudicial bullying is based on someone’s race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion. This form of bullying is based on stereotypes and the belief that someone deserves to be treated as “less than” due to these characteristics.

The Roles in Bullying Behavior

There are several different roles that people play in a typical bullying scenario, some of which are detailed below. Understanding these roles can help you better understand the type of bullying prevention needed.

The Person Who Bullies

This is the person who engages in bullying behavior towards others. Various risk factors can contribute to why this person acts out and harms others. People usually need support in order to change their behaviors and address any issues contributing to their behavior.

The Person Being Bullied

There are many factors that may contribute to a person being the victim of bullying. Some of these factors include:12
  • Being perceived as different
  • Being seen as weak or unable to defend themselves
  • Perceived as having fewer friends
  • Struggling with depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem
  • Having a more difficult time getting along with others
These people may need more support in learning how to defend and stand up for themselves. It can be important to teach these individuals bullying prevention techniques.

People Who Assist

These are the people who may not lead the bullying behavior, but they are there to encourage or assist the person who bullies.

People Who Defend

These are the people who actively comfort or stand up for the person being bullied.

People Who Reinforce

These people may not actively engage in bullying behavior, but they may encourage it by laughing or acting as an audience.


Outsiders are people who do not engage in or reinforce negative behavior. They often witness the bullying behavior from a distance and may want to help, but they do not know how.
An important component of bullying prevention is understanding these different roles and how each person may or may not contribute to bullying behavior.

The Effects of Bullying

Bullying has negative effects on both the person who is bullied and the person who is bullying. Bullying behavior has been linked to negative impacts on mental health, substance use disorder (SUD), and suicide.

Victims of Bullying

Victims of bullying are more likely to experience issues with:
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Increases in sadness and loneliness
  • Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
  • Impacts on sleep
  • Physical and health complaints
  • Declined academic or work performance

Impacts on Students

Students who were bullied reported the following:13
  • 27% shared that the bullying negatively affected how they feel about themselves
  • 19% said that it affected their friendships and relationships
  • 19% stated the bullying negatively affected their school work
  • 14% shared it negatively affected their physical health

Those Who Bully Others

People who bully others are more likely to engage in aggressive and risky behavior. These people are more likely to:14
  • Misuse alcohol or other drugs
  • Engage in early sexual activity
  • Have more criminal convictions
  • Be abusive in relationships
  • Drop out of school and vandalize property

Impact of Witnessing Bullying

Individuals who witness harmful bullying behaviors can also be negatively affected. There are some reports that show bystanders may suffer from:15
  • Increased risk of using illicit substances
  • Increase in tobacco use
  • Increase in alcohol use
  • Feelings of guilt or shame
  • Increased depression or anxiety
Bullying not only affects the people directly involved. It also impacts the outsiders and bystanders who may witness the abuse or harassment.

Witnessing Bullying – What to Do Next?

Why Bullying Prevention is Important

Bullying prevention is important because of how the behaviors negatively impact everyone, directly or indirectly. 

This abusive type of behavior can have long-term effects on everyone who is involved. In fact, bullying is considered an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) that may lead to trauma.

People who report experiencing more ACEs are more likely to experience mental health issues and trauma. Studies have also shown that children who experience more ACEs are also more likely to exhibit bullying behavior.16

Benefits of Bullying Prevention

Bullying prevention is important for many reasons, including:
  • The emotional, mental, and physical health of everyone involved
  • Preventing high-risk situations like suicide 
  • Preventing cycles of abuse and harassment
  • Decreasing the risk of school and workplace violence
If you or someone you know is a victim of bullying, please do not hesitate to reach out for help. There are many different resources available for bullying prevention and getting the assistance you need.

What are Bullying Prevention Strategies?

While bullying is a common problem, it can be preventable. Some common bullying prevention strategies are detailed below.

Understand Why Bullying Happens

One of the first steps to bullying prevention is to understand why someone may engage in that type of behavior. From there, a way to prevent bullying is to put systems and education in place to address these root causes. 

This could look like:

  • Promoting family environments that support healthy development, such as parenting skills, early childhood home visits, and family relationship programs
  • Providing quality education early in life
  • Using mentor programs or after-school programs to connect youth to supportive, caring adults
  • Using community outreach programs and reducing risk to threats in the community
  • Intervene using treatment, such as counseling, to prevent problem behaviors or exposure to violence

Teaching Preventative Measures

Another way to establish bullying prevention strategies is to equip those who are being bullied with the skills and confidence to communicate and stand up for themselves. 

It is important to help people identify what bullying behavior looks like. Since some forms of bullying may not be as obvious, some people, especially younger children, may find it difficult to identify.

Aside from promoting healthy and supportive environments, other ways to teach bullying prevention may include:
  • Encouraging people to speak up if they are being bullied or witness someone being bullied
  • Give tips on how to stand up to bullies, like using humor, walking away, or confidently saying “stop”
  • Discussing the importance of standing up for oneself and those who are being bullied and how to do so safely

Workplace Bullying Prevention

Since bullying occurs most commonly in children and adolescents, many prevention strategies are aimed at early prevention. However, adults can also experience bullying, most commonly in the workplace. 

Some ways to address or prevent workplace bullying include:

  • Carefully documenting the behavior
  • Determining whether there is someone safe to talk to in the workplace
  • If other people in the workplace are also being bullied, consulting each other and working together
  • If it is safe to do so, filing a formal complaint with the company’s human resources department to make sure it is on record
  • If there is evidence of harassment due to race, gender, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, or another protected status, consider contacting a lawyer or filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Cyberbullying Prevention

While cyberbullying is difficult to regulate, it can still be preventable. Some bullying prevention methods for cyberbullying include:
  • Not responding to the bully
  • Documenting each instance of cyberbullying by saving text messages, emails, photos, etc.
  • If the bullying occurred at school or work, informing a teacher, superior, or other authority
  • Blocking or deleting numbers or accounts
  • If the harassment is happening via social media, reporting the harassment through the platform
  • For parents, restricting access and/or placing parental controls may help prevent harassment from reaching the child
Many platforms prohibit forms of abuse and harassment, so it is possible to remove offensive or inappropriate content by reaching out to the platform and reporting the offense.

How Caregivers, Administrators, and Teachers Play a Role in Bullying Prevention

To prevent bullying from occurring, schools and workplaces can adopt a trauma-informed approach by training staff on how to recognize trauma and abuse. This can be done by:
  • Educating staff about trauma and its effects
  • Providing training on how to recognize bullying behavior
  • Promoting safety in the school or work environment
  • Having a zero-tolerance policy for bullying
  • Establishing safe and open lines of communication

Schools and companies play an important role in the well-being and safety of their students or employees. 

That is why it is important to establish safety measures for individuals to communicate about instances of bullying or harassment.

Bullying Prevention

Understanding the Importance of Community Safety and Education

At Horizon Treatment Services, we are wholly committed to keeping our community safe and enabling our youth to develop into the strong, independent, healthy, and fulfilled adults that we know they are capable of becoming. 

We believe in the power of community education and outreach – something that is near and dear to us with our Project Eden adolescent prevention and outpatient services.

Adverse Childhood Experiences

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can have detrimental impacts on adolescents well into their adulthood. 

ACEs can include mental and physical trauma – such as bullying – and can greatly increase the risk of substance misuse throughout their lives. We believe that with proper bullying prevention strategies, we can help combat this growing issue.17

Reach Out to Horizon Treatment Services to Learn More

If you or a loved one are experiencing bullying, or are interested in being part of the positive change inevitably set about by bullying prevention strategies, Horizon Treatment Services is here to help educate and strengthen our local communities. 

Fill out our quick contact form here or call us today at 510.582.2100. We are so excited to hear from you.