Why Do Teens Bully Others?

Bullying, Part 4 of 5

Many targets of bullies blame themselves. They think it is their fault that other people are bullying them. However, the reasons for bullying often are related to the bully rather than the target. There are many psychological and physical reasons for bullying behavior. In part four of a five-part series about bullying, this article addresses a few of these reasons. When you understand more about bullying, you will better understand how to stop it.

What Are Psychological Reasons for Bullying?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services investigated the causes of bullying behavior. They found that there is not a single cause. Bullies are motivated by a variety of different reasons. Some common motives or risk factors for bullying include:

  • People who are quick to anger or impulsive are more likely to become bullies.
  • If a teen is jealous of another teen’s success or attractiveness, then that teen might become a bully.
  • Teens might bully others if they see themselves as being superior toward others.
  • Teens who are raised to believe that it is bad to be different may mistreat other people who they see as different.  


What Are Physical Reasons for Bullying?

According to psychological researcher Dieter Wolke, there is an evolutionary reason for bullying.

“If you look at it evolutionarily, it’s a strategy for getting access to resources. And it gets stronger in adolescence because another resource is, for example, having a relationship with someone of the opposite sex,” said Wolke.


There are also more individual reasons for bullying. Bullying often occurs in adolescence. Adolescents’ brains are still developing. The prefrontal cortex in the brain governs reasons. It is also one of the last areas of the brain to develop. In effect, teens ability to reason is still developing. Therefore, they tend to make decisions based on emotion.


While there are psychological and physical reasons for bullying, that does not mean that bullying is ever excusable. If you suspect that your teen is bullying others or is the target of bullying, get involved. Look at part two of this series for suggestions on how to help teens targeted by bullies. Look at part three of the series to find ways to help teens who are bullies. As a parent, you have the ability to make difference in teens’ lives. You also have the ability to help shape a kinder and healthier world.