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Identifying Bullies and Victims

Bullying, Cassie, age 14


The following lists were taken from Dan Olweus' (1993) book, Bullying at School, which is an informative and accessible book that we highly recommend to teachers.

Possible signs of being a bully (Olweus, 1993)
· May tease (repeatedly) in nasty ways, taunt, intimidate, threaten, ridicule, hit, and damage belongings of other students; this may be displayed toward many children, but typically they select in particular weaker and relatively defenseless students as their targets. Also, many bullies induce some of their followers to do the "dirty work" while they themselves keep in the background
· May be physically stronger than their classmates and their victims in particular; may be the same age as or somewhat older than their victims; are physically effective in play activities, sports, and fights (applies particularly to boys)
· May have strong needs to dominate and subdue other students, to assert themselves with power and threat, and to get their own way; they may brag about their actual or imagined superiority.
· May be hot tempered, easily angered, impulsive, and have low frustration tolerance; they have difficulty conforming to rules and tolerating adversities and delays, and may try to gain advantage by cheating
· May be generally oppositional, defiant, and aggressive toward adults, and may be frightening to adults (depending on the age and physical strength of the young person); are generally good at "talking themselves out of" difficult situations.
· May be seen as being tough, hardened, and may show little empathy with students who are victimized
· Are often not anxious or insecure and they typically have a relatively positive view of themselves (average or better than average self esteem)
· May engage in other antisocial behaviors at a relatively early age
· May be average, above or below average in popularity, but often have support from at least a small number of peers; in junior high, bullies are likely to be less popular than in primary school
· May show normal academic development in elementary school, but may show academic decline in junior high as attitude becomes more and more negative

Possible primary signs of being a victim (Olweus, 1993)
· May be repeatedly teased in a nasty way, called names, ridiculed, intimidated, subdued
· May be made fun of and laughed at in a derisive way
· May be picked on, pushed around, punched, and cannot defend selves adequately
· May have quarrels or fights from which they try to withdraw (frequently crying)
· May have their books, money, or other belongings taken, damaged, or scattered around
· May have bruises, injuries, cuts, scratches, or torn clothing that cannot be given a natural explanation

Possible secondary signs of being a victim (Olweus, 1993)
· May often be alone and excluded from the peer group during breaks, do not seem to have a single good friend in the class
· May be chosen among the last in team games
· May try to stay close to the teacher or other adults during breaks
· May have difficulty speaking up in class and give an anxious and insecure impression
· May appear distressed, unhappy, depressed, tearful
· May show sudden or gradual deterioration of school work

Possible signs of being a provocative victim (Olweus, 1993)
· May be hot-tempered and attempt to fight or answer back when attacked or insulted, but usually not very effectively
· May be hyperactive, restless, unconcentrated, and generally offensive and tension-creating; may be clumsy and immature with irritating habits
· May be actively disliked also by adults, including the teacher
· May themselves try to bully weaker students

For an example of Olweus' research, see Intervention Campaign Against Bully-Victim Problems.

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