Parental Abuse Linked to Bullying

Children who bully others in peer situations often learn such behaviors by way of watching others. In fact, there may be correlations between a child who suffers parental abuse and one who bullies. Explore these links to determine whether a child is acting out in response to parallel victimization.

Lack of Supervision, Substance Abuse

Homes that lack effective and positive parental supervision may create an environment that produces children with bully-like tendencies, according an article on the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) website, "Bullying: Facts for Kids and Parents." In addition, in homes where alcohol abuse exists and where maternal attachment in toddlerhood might be compromised, there may be elevated risks of bullying behavior in children, according to a study published in the "Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology" in 2010 1. The study, “Parent Alcohol Problems and Peer Bullying and Victimization: Child Gender and Toddler Attachment Security as Moderators," found "a direct association between fathers' alcohol symptoms and bullying of peers, as well as indirect association via toddler-mother attachment security." 2

Inconsistent Parenting

A lack of consistent consequences and parenting can also lead to children exhibiting bully behaviors, according to the NASP website. When a child acts out in an aggressive or hurtful manner toward someone else, it’s crucial to correct this misbehavior and apply consequences to teach the child that aggression is not acceptable or appropriate. If parents fail to provide consistent consequences to bullying behavior, or they don’t attach any negative feedback to such behavior, the end result is reinforcement of the bullying behavior.

Victim Becomes Bully

Children who regularly receive physical punishment from parents may bully other children, the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension reveals in an article, "Why Do Some Children Bully Others?" Spanking, hitting, shoving and other forms of physical punishment or abuse can teach children to deal with their problems or challenges by using methods of aggression. Because it’s common for children to emulate behaviors and actions that occur in the home, parents who engage in bully-like behavior with children will likely produce children who repeat such behaviors with others. According to Education, a website filled with resources for teachers, authoritarian parents, those who parent with strict rules and harsh punishment and little affection, may parent in a style that encourages bullying behavior 3.

Parental Encouragement

Some parents encourage children to develop a fight-back attitude in response to the wrongs done to them. The Education website states that condoning physical responses can influence children to develop tendencies to use aggression and physical responses to resolve differences 3. Whereas, teaching children a more peaceful response might reduce the risk of children engaging in bullying behavior.