No More Bullying: When victims turn into bullies, answers may seem unclear; seek help [Northern Kentucky Tribune, Melissa Martin, 30|3|2015]

Do some kids who are victims of bullying start bullying others? Yes. The term is bully-victim (someone who bullies and is bullied).

“When we fail to teach kids about bullying, fail to intervene when necessary, fail to recognize a child in pain, we leave children being bullied with few options,” writes MaryAnn Byrne, a certified Olweus Bullying Prevention trainer. “Some children will muddle through and grow up with a variety of issues including anxiety, depression, social phobia and so on. Some children turn on themselves. They become self-injurious, suicidal, substance abusers, drop out of school, society and sometimes life. Others become bullies.”

Clayton Cook and colleagues from the University of California examined 153 studies from the last 30 years on the kids who bully, kids who are the victims, and kids who are both the bully and the victim and reported results in the School Psychology Quarterly.

Results found the bully-victim have things in common: poor social skills, lack problem-solving skills, have problems with academics, are rejected and isolated by peers, and give in to negative peer pressure.

Bully-victims experience more intense behavioral and emotional problems than kids who are either the bully or the victims reports Marini and colleagues in the journal Aggressive Behavior. These kids have victim symptoms of anxiety, depression, peer rejection and bully symptoms of aggression and breaking rules.

The National Association of School Psychologists discussed both unique and common characteristics of the bully, the victim, and the bully-victim.

Characteristics of Bullies

Children who bully tend to have a more positive attitude about violent behaviors and watch television programs where violence is endorsed as a way of gaining power.

Characteristics of Victims of Bullying

Children who are bullied usually have poorly developed social skills and difficulty with peer relationships, have few friends and may be socially isolated at school, are unassertive, are insecure and have poor self-esteem.

Characteristics of Bully–Victims

These children usually are anxious, insecure, have difficulty concentrating, have difficulty reading social cues, may be hyperactive, and behave aggressively.

Peskin and colleagues report that kids may be victims at home and bullies at school or a child may be a victim through childhood and become a bully during adolescence. Bullying is about power and control over others. Powerless kids may use aggression to take control.


Stop bullying now.

The Substance Abuse and MENTAL HEALTH Services Administration developed KnowBullying, a free smart phone app that provides adults with information and communication support to talk about bullying and build resilience in children.

Parents need to be aware that not all children who are bullied show warning signs.

Some children who go from victim to bully continue to represent themselves as victims to their parents and school staff. Parents and school counselors need to talk to kids about the bully-victim dyad issue. School bullying prevention and intervention programs need to address issues concerning bully-victims. Youth need to know that help is available.

Talk with the school principal and teachers if your child is the victim, the bully, or the bully-victim. Ask for a copy of the school policy and document the bullying incidents. Peruse your state department of education website for bullying laws and policies for school districts. Talk with other parents. Do not give up until the bullying stops.

If you believe your child is a victim, bully, or bully-victim seek help from the school counselor, school psychologist, and a child therapist. Ask your pediatrician for a referral to a child psychiatrist if needed.