Foreword from Dr. Jerry Cunningham

Turn on the news and you will most likely see a story about bullying or the effects of a person who was bullied.  Bullying has always been around.  Cain bullied Able. My grandmother told me stories about bullies when she was younger.  Today, the bullying is more prevalent because there are more avenues for the bullying to take place.  In schools, at home, and on the internet are just a few places where bullying has been increasing. 


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How do we recognize bullying and what can we do.  I am going to write a few articles covering this because there is just too much to add into one article and I want to give each aspect of bullying its due diligence. This article is going to just be a general overview of what bullying is.  There will be an article focusing on the bully.  There will be one focused on the person being bullied.  There will be an article for teachers, parents, friends, school policy makers, law enforcers, and government agencies.  There will be an article over adults being bullied and instigating bullying tactics.  My hope for writing these articles is that I, as a psychologist, will get less business from children and adults who are being bullied.  This is a society problem and it will take a whole society in order to change this problem.  These series of articles are just my little extra part to make the world a place where people are not bullied as much and can learn to deal with it when they are. 


Bullying.  Definition.

My definition of bullying is any action from one person, the aggressor, toward another person, the victim, which makes the victim feel, believe, or perceive physical, emotional, or psychological harm is imminent in the near future.


The dictionary defines bullying as “the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others”.  Bullying can include “verbal harassment or threat physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability.”


Bullying may be defined as “the activity of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person, physically or mentally.” Bullying is an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person.


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Who Bullies

Bullying can be done by an individual, known as the aggressor.  However, there may be a group of people who join together to bully.  This is known as mobbing.


There does tend to be a difference between males and females as it relates to bullying.  Males tend to be more physically aggressive toward the victims, whereas females use more of the intimidation, mockery, or social exclusion in order to bully others. More recent evidence suggests that females are starting to become more physically aggressive in their bullying. 


Dr. Clayton Cook and et al from the University of California, Riverside, suggested from research that boys bully more than girls, and bullies and victims both have poor social problem-solving skills. More than anything else, poor academic performance predicts those who will bully. This is one reason why school staff and teachers can be the first one to help predict when bullying is taking place. 


Who gets bullied?

Dr. Cook says that "A typical victim is likely to be aggressive, lack social skills, think negative thoughts, experience difficulties in solving social problems, come from a negative family, school and community environments and be noticeably rejected and isolated by peers"   These people are usually referred to as the “victim” or the “target” of bullying.


The victim that does not react eventually will be left alone or at least receive the victimization less because the bully is seeking social acceptance and form of humor from people around him or her.  The victim that lacks social skills may not know how to appropriately act when faced with the action and therefore, will continued to be bullied just to see the inappropriate reaction.  The victim has a poor ego or lacks some abilities to emotionally fight off the bullying attack and therefore sort of attracts the negative attention.  I do not mean in any way to say the victim is “asking” for the bullying.

The victim, who has a history of not being able to stand up and defend them in a socially acceptable manner, will be a target for the bully.  The targets are not receiving good social support at home and either feels they cannot discuss this with their parents or will be punished for not reacting to the victimization.  At other times, the target will be punished when they do react. 


I know one child, who was punched in the stomach and when he told his guardian, he was punished and told he was going to be whipped if he did not fight back.  Then the guardian proceeded to fight with the child and even went as far as tell the child he must fight his sibling to “learn to fight” or face punishment.  This shows poor child rearing skills and lack of intelligence for the concept of bullying or just typical childhood behaviors.  This guardian has a lot to learn about raising children and the society’s reaction to bullying. 


The Effects of Bullying

There are so many different effects of bullying.  Luckily, children are resilient and even with poor parental involvement and reactions, like the listed poor guardian above, children will make it through childhood alive.  However, some don’t and some others who do are emotionally scared for a lifetime. 


The extreme was displayed in the comedy starring Adam Sandler, as Billy Madison, and Steve Buscemi as Danny McGrath, an adult victim of bullying by Billy Madison when they were in high school.  Danny McGrath had plotted homicidal revenge on Billy Madison and a lot of others who had done him wrong or bullied him.  I cannot help to think if the recent and past school and mass shootings are a Danny McGrath type of revenge plot.  If the bullying had not occurred, maybe the mass murders would not have either.  Homicidal rage is a result of past and continued bullying when the victim is unable to deal emotionally with all the stress involved from the actions. 


There is evidence that bullying increases the risk of suicide.  According to, the percentage of suicides related to bullying is 44%.  The statistics are probably underestimated in that a lot of the victims might not have reported the bullying and just passed on without anyone really knowing that was a leading cause. 


Bystander Effect

In March 1964, as Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was being raped and murdered in a dark alley intake a standCredit: New York City, her neighbors watched and heard the series of fatal events but it was not until the murder had occurred that only one, possibly two, called the authorities to report it.  Later on the neighbors reported they thought someone else may report it.  Some reported they did not want to get involved out of fear.  All witnesses who would acknowledge they seen or heard the victimization, reported they did know that the rape and murder was not right. They were truly sorry for not acting accordingly.  There were many social psychology studies to try to determine how this could happen.


Some seen the Bystander Effect associated with the Kitty Genovese study as apathy of living in the big cities.  We still see the bystander effect associated with bullying in the smallest of schools and towns.  Often bullying takes place in the presence of a large group of relatively uninvolved bystanders.  The bully creates the situation that he or she has others on his or her side and that instills the fear of "speaking out" in protestation of the bullying activities being observed by the bystanders. When the bully’s actions are tolerated it often becomes an accepted, or supported, norm within the group.  This makes it harder for others to speak out.  This may have been what was going on with the neighbors in the Kitty Genovese situation.  When raped, murder, and even bullying are allowed to continue to occur without society stepping up and not following the bystander effect, it is going to get worse.


I want to end this article with just two things you can do to help stop bullying.  First, educate yourself by checking back here for more articles I will be writing and with other books and articles from other trainers and authors.  Second, speak up, don’t be a bystander. 


The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up For Others
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