Parental Abuse Linked to Bullying

By Beth Greenwood
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Bullying is a serious problem in the United States. Seventy percent of all high school students and 90 percent of all fourth through third graders have experienced bullying at school, according to Boston Children’s Hospital. Bullies frequently target students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender -- nine in 10 report being bullied at school. Victims of bullies are also nine times more likely to contemplate suicide than children who are not bullied.

Harmful Behavior

Bullying is not an occasional shoving match or argument, but repeated harmful behavior toward another individual. Bullying is deliberate behavior. It involves a perpetrator who has more power in a given situation and a victim who has less power. Bullying can be perpetrated by a single or multiple individuals. Cyber-bullying has become the most prevalent kind of bullying behavior, according to Boston Children’s Hospital, but bullies also use verbal -- in person or on the phone -- and physical means of bullying.

Characteristics of Bullies

Common characteristics of bullies include a need to dominate others, impulsive behavior, difficulty managing negative emotions such as anger, anxiety and jealousy, and a lack of tolerance for people who are “different,” according to Boston Children's Hospital. People with ADHD and other mental health disorders can also be more inclined to bully because they have difficulty controlling their impulses. The hospital states that parents who demonstrate little warmth or interest or who use force, threats, humiliation and intimidation are more likely to raise children who bully.

Bullies, Victims, and Bully-Victims

In a study of 700 fifth-grade students reported on, a parenting information website, 14 percent of the students reported they were bullies, 12 percent reported they had been victims of bullying and 8 percent -- called bully-victims -- reported they had both been bullied and had bullied. Parental abuse, child maltreatment, sexual victimization and domestic violence were all factors in bullying, according to this study. Forty-four percent of bully-victims had experienced physical and psychological abuse and neglect. Bully-victims also had a high rate -- 32 percent -- of sexual victimization. Both bullies and bully-victims were more likely than other youth to have witnessed domestic violence in their own homes.

Bullies vs. Victims

Physical punishment increases the risk that children will become bullies, according to Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network, or PREVNet, a Canadian coalition against bullying. They are also less likely to be supervised or monitored by their parents. Victims, on the other hand, are more likely to have parents who have high levels of intrusiveness and controlling behavior. When parents handle their differences with aggression and violence, they are more likely to raise children who are prone to become either bullies or victims, according to PREVNet.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.