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Types of Bullying


IS NOT a fact of life.
IS NOT kids just being kids.
IS NOT part of growing up.
IS NOT an acceptable behaviour.

The word “bully” has many stigmatizing stereotypes attached to it.
By labeling our children as “bullies” we marginalize them. Focus on the behaviour not the child.
Instead use the term "engaging in bullying".
Those who bully may have a skill deficit.
We need to provide support, education, and formative consequences to build the lacking skills.

Bullying is a pattern of repeated aggressive behaviour, with  intent to harm, directed from one person or more persons to one or more individuals, where there is a power imbalance.

(adapted Violence Prevention Works, 2013)

  • Physical Bullying

    Physical bullying includes hitting, kicking, shoving, spitting, beating up, stealing or damaging property.

    While physical bullying causes harm to a child’s body or property, the below forms of bullying cause psychological harm. Such offensive, degrading and rejecting behaviours undermine and destabilize victimized children’s sense of themselves, of their place in the school, and of their place in the world.


  • Verbal Bullying

    Verbal bullying includes name-calling, mocking, hurtful teasing, insults, slurs, humiliating or threatening someone, racist comments, or sexual harassment.


  • Social Bullying

    Social bullying includes rolling your eyes or turning away from someone, excluding others from the group, getting others to ignore or exclude, gossiping or spreading rumours, setting others up to look foolish, and damaging reputations and friendships.


  • Electronic or Cyberbullying

    Electronic or cyberbullying includes the use of email, cell phones, text messages, and internet sites to threaten, harass, embarrass, socially exclude, or damage reputations and friendships.


  • Sexual Bullying

    Sexual bullying includes leaving someone out; treating them badly, or making them feel uncomfortable because of their sex; making sexist comments or jokes; touching, pinching or grabbing someone in a sexual way; making crude comments about someone’s sexual behaviour or orientation; or spreading a sexual rumour.


  • Socio-ecological approaches perceive bullying as the intersection of multiple micro, mezzo and macro causality factors that are best addressed from many simultaneous directions (Espelage, 2014, Swearer et al., 2010, Liu & Graves, 2011, Bauman & Yoon, 2014)
  • Definition of bullying: “… is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems” (S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.a)
  • Bullying is often divided into categories of cyber bullying, direct bullying and indirect bullying for research purposes (S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.a). Further defined categories are those of the bystander, victim, bully, and bully-victims (Cook et al., 2010)
  • Rates of youths being cyberbullied and victimized at the same time are higher than traditional forms of bullying (Walrave & Heirman, 2011)

Prevalence Studies

Canadian Healthy Behaviours of School aged Children (HBSC) (2010)

  • Most Canadian youth that are involved in bullying belong to the “Bully-Victim” group (41%), while only 22% of Canadian children report being victimized by bullying and 12% report exclusively bullying others (Craig & McCuaig Edge, 2012)
  • Sexualized bullying increases in age throughout high school, particularly for females

Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (Ottawa Public Health, 2014, Boak et al., 2014)

  • Ottawa female youths report bullying others (12.8%) more than males (9.8%)
  • Youths with low socio-economic status (27%) and poor mental health (50%) also have higher rates of being bullied
  • In victimization of cyber bullying, the gender gap in Ottawa (27% for females and 11% for males) is larger than it is for the rest of Ontario (23% for females and 16% for males)

Tell Them From Me – Ottawa Carleton District School Board (The Learning Bar, 2014)

  • Self-reported victimization by bullying decreases steadily from 25% in grade 4 to 12% in grade 12
  • Ottawa males (17%) report being victimized by bullying less than the rest of Canada (25%). This difference also exists for females, but with a smaller gap, 16% of Ottawa females report being victimized, compared to female norms of around 20% from across Canada.
  • Ottawa students reported advocacy outside of school (average of 5.5) higher than the rest of Canada (average of 4.6). Out of school advocacy is more than twice as high as within school advocacy (2.5)
  • Parents report the primary reason their children are excluded at school is for “other reasons” (11%), appearance (6%), high or low grades (4%), or a disability (3%)

Ottawa Youth Focus Groups

  • Sexualized and cyber bullying is common, bullying occurs most often in unsupervised areas, reporting to teachers was not supported as an appropriate intervention
  • Need for after school activities, mixing up peer groups, making on-line reporting available, clear policies, staff who build relationships with students, student engagement, a designated safe space or person in every school, and regular check ins were recommended.

Macro Systems

  • Macro systems of influence on bullying include norms, socio-economic stratification, media, and government policies
  • Family affluence was found to be a protective quality towards involvement of bullying for females but not males (Currie et al., 2012)
  • Children and youth who have lower socio-economic status than their peers have higher risks of bully-victim behaviours (Napoltano et al., 2015)
  • Large amounts of television viewing in early childhood is related to early elementary school bullying behaviours, but a larger determinant is socio-economic status which predicts both television viewing and involvement in bullying in early childhood (Verlinden et al., 2014)
  • Bill 13, the Accepting School Act, was introduced by the McGuinty Government of 2012, and passed shortly after that in an effort to improve school bullying policies (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2012).
  • Schools are mandated to have clear policies and protocols in place, as well as a safe school committee which includes parent representatives (Ministry of Education, PPM #144)
  • The Ontario Ombudsman is now (as of September, 2015) accepting school board complaints as a last resort measure for when schools and teachers fail to protect children/youth from bullying

Organizational Policies and Programs

  • In Ontario, reported barriers for schools in implementing and sustaining safe school policies are (1) resources and time, (2) strategic alignment across all schools, and (3) data collection and analysis limitations due to lack of specified training and tools (Institute for Education Leadership, 2014)
  • Common tenants across successful bullying prevention programs are holism, positive school climates, peer and staff training, addressing the needs of the child who bullied and is being bullied, developing social-emotional competencies, promoting upstander bahaviours, and including systematic evaluations (Ansary et al., 2015)
  • Programming for youth needs to take into account developmental stages. Currently, there is inconsistency in the literature as to the efficacy of bullying prevention programs for youths (Yeager et al., 2015)
  • Clear policies on bullying are more effective than curriculum focused material and social skill training (Lee, Kim & Kim, 2015)
  • Programming components of emotional control and peer counselling have promising results (Lee, Kim & Kim, 2015), but consistent significant results in this area have not been ascertained (Ttofi & Farrington, 2011), perhaps due to how programming is implemented (Yeager et al., 2015)
  • Student led activities and organizations that support safe and inclusive learning are supported by research and mandated by the Ministry of Education through Program Policy Memorandum 145
  • More intense programs, staff parent meetings, parent training and communication, teacher training, clear and consistent disciplinary practices, and increasing playground supervision have positive effects in reducing bullying (Ttofi & Farrington, 2011)
  • Qualitative studies suggest that young children bully due to acting out narratives, boredom, instrumental reasons, or reactive emotional aggression, while youths report greater amounts of verbal and indirect bullying which is sexual in nature and influenced by gender (Patton et al. 2015)

 Non-recommended Practices

  • Zero Tolerance policies (APA zero tolerance task force, 2008)
  • Disciplinary measures which are solely punitive (Pepler & Craig, 2014, Cohen, 2002)
  • Conflict resolution and peer mediation in an incident of bullying (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.b)
  • Messages that bullying causes others to have acts of violence or to commit suicide (CDC, n.d.b)
  • “Piece meal approaches” or “one-off” initiatives, such as a one-time assembly addressing bullying (Pepler & Craig, 2014)
  • Group treatment for children who bully (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.b)
  • Immediately trying to sort out the facts (CDC, n.d.)
  • Advising children to avoiding social media as a way of avoiding electronic bullying (Pepler & Craig, 2014)
  • Ignoring adults’ bullying and relationships—these are models for children (Pepler & Craig, 2014)
  • Youth engagement programs which provide token positions to a few privileged youths who speak for all youth. (Pan Canadian Consortium for School Health + the Center for Excellence in Youth Engagement, n.d.)


  • A small to moderate effect is found between positive parenting (good communication, involvement, support, appropriate monitoring) and a protective buffer towards involvement in bullying as a victim or perpetrator. Negative parenting (overly or under controlling, low attachments etc…) also has a small to moderate effect of risk towards children being involved in bullying. This effect was larger in bully-victim groups (Lereya, Samara & Wolke, 2013, Craig & Pepler, 2014 )
  • Girls are more strongly influenced by quality of parenting than boys (Craig & Pepler, 2014)
  • Parental monitoring reduces accompanied anti-social behaviours in children who bully, and later in life they experience less anti-social behaviours (Vassallo et al., 2014)
  • More communication between child and parent does not equate to strong monitoring or a good quality relationship. After incidents of bullying, children whose parents conferred with other sources about their child’s actions throughout the day were less likely to bully again, while children whose parents spoke directly to them were more likely to bully again (Vassallo et al., 2014)
  • Narrative family therapy and strategic/structural family therapy can serve as complimentary approaches to address bullying (Powell & Ladd, 2010)


  • Peer influence is one of the strongest predictors for involvement in bullying (Cook et al., 2010)
  • In Ontario, student led activities and organizations that support safe and inclusive learning are mandated by the Ministry of Education through Program Policy Memorandum 145.
  • After bullying prevention programs, bystanders tend to intervene more often in situations of bullying. However, after programming completion, the reason for intervening was not related to a change in empathy for the victim (Polanin, Espelage, & Pigott, 2012)
  • Students believe pro-bullying attitudes are far more common that adult populations report (Perkins, Craig & Perkins, 2011)
  • Higher levels of substance use was found to exist in both bullies and bystanders (Rivers et al., 2009)

Individual Factors

  • Stress from bullying has been found to cause disruption to healthy childhood development, and creates a genetic disruption which can be passed down to future generations (Vaillancourt, April 21st, 2015)
  • Victims often have a lower sense of wellbeing and perpetrators often have associated behavioural problems, a cumulative effect is seen in bully-victims in that they have the lowest ratings of well-being and they also have associated behavioural problems (Craig & McCuaig Edge, 2012)
  • Children and youth who exclusively bully others also have pro-bullying attitudes (Williams & Guerra, 2007), high social competence (Cook et al. 2010) and perceive bullying as a tool to advance their own inter-group status (Juvonen, Graham, & Schuster, 2003, Faris & Ennett, 2012)
  • Deficits in social problem solving skills which are often applied in everyday negotiation and confrontations are found to exist in victims, bullies, and bully-victim groups (Cook et al., 2010)
  • Deficits in temporal sequencing and problem solving are often found in children who are victimized and this may be a consequence of the trauma imposed upon them (Vaillancourt et al., 2013).
  • Victims of bullying often lack cognitive empathy, but not affective empathy, while children who bully others often lack cognitive and affective empathy (van Noorden et al., 2015)
  • LGBTQ youths are at higher risk of bullying in high school than non-LGBTQ youths, and they are particularly susceptible to bullying in the physical education changing rooms, bathrooms and hallways (Taylor & Peter, 2011)
  • LGBTQ students experience less bullying in schools that have clear and explicit anti-bullying policies (Taylor & Peter, 2011)
  • Bullying based on weight is a serious issues which is initiated not just by peers, but also by parents and teachers (Puhl et al., 2013)
  • Youth with disabilities, learning differences, and sexual/gender identity differences are more vulnerable to being bullied, and being bullied (particularly cyber bullied) increases the risk of suicide (CDC, n.d.)

Gaps in Research

  • Research is focused on longitudinal studies which document the negative outcomes for children who have been involved with various types of bullying, biological studies indicating genetic manipulations which are produced by the stress of bullying, and studies which document the amount and depth of bullying directed towards subsections of society (Zych, Ortego-Ruiz & Del Rey, 2015)
  • Although socio-ecological approaches have been heavily endorsed, more research is required on how to effectively build capacity and engage multiple players in preventing and intervening in bullying.

What is Bullying? What does it look like? What are bystanders? What types of bullying are there?



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