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Bullying Series – Part 3 of 5: Who is at Risk for Being Bullied?

Teen Bullying Risks

Who is at Risk for Being Bullied and Bullying?

During my recent interview for a teen mental health special on WKRN News 2, I talked about who may be at risk for being bullied and for bullying. I’ve put together a 5-part series of blog posts about bullying to provide more details than the news special allowed. Part 1 covered what bullying is in 2018. Part 2 took a hard look at cyberbullying.

To be clear, we’ll be looking at bullying risk factors. This doesn’t mean that someone who has one or more of these factors is absolutely going to be bullied or end up bullying someone else.

Risk Factors for Being Bullied

Bullying involves a power differential. What is a power differential? This is when one party has more actual or perceived power, influence, or authority than another party. For example, if a person is seen as being more popular than another person, they may be considered to have more social power. In general, the person bullying is seen as more powerful in some way than the person being bullied.

This can show itself in several ways, including:

  • Popularity (including communication skills)
  • Appearance
  • Cognitive ability
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender

Popularity, cognitive ability, socioeconomic status, and clothing all play big parts in teens’ lives, particularly in school. These are differences that teens pick up on, particularly for those who have gone to school together for an extended amount of time. Discriminatory bullying, in relation to factors like race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender may be more likely to earn legal consequences.

Mental health issues are unpleasant to deal with, and they can become a risk factor for bullying. When someone is already struggling emotionally, being bullied can cause that struggle to become more difficult. We know that those suffering from depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and other mental health concerns are more at-risk for being bullied.

Risk Factors for Bullying

Some of these risk factors are similar to those for being bullied. A frequent factor is having been bullied, subjected to domestic violence, or a victim of physical or verbal abuse. Struggling with depression or anxiety may also be risk factors. We also know that additional risk factors include the tendency for aggressive, impulsive, and/or antisocial behavior. This includes a lack of understanding or compassion for others’ feelings.

Risk Factors Do Not Predict the Future

It is important to mention once again that having any of these risk factors does not mean that a person is doomed to be bullied. There should be some awareness, though. It is important for parents and other adults responsible for teens to be aware of these risk factors.

Next Blog

We’ve looked at what modern bullying looks like, cyberbullying, and risk factors for bullying. The next blog of this 5-part series will focus on signs that someone is being bullied and effects bullying may have on teens.