10 Types of Kids Most Likely to Be Bullied

Discover how bullies choose their targets

sad little boy
Kelly Knox/Stocksy United

When it comes to bullying, a lot of people blame the victim instead of the bully. For instance, some people think that victims of bullying bring it on themselves, that they cause the bullying in some way. Other times, people assume that the victims deserve to bullied. They believe they are either too sensitive or unstable and if they were stronger they would not be bullied.

But the fact is, the problem does not lie with the victims of bullying.

Bullying is about a wrong choice the bully makes, not some defect in the target. And the responsibility for bullying always falls on the bully's shoulders, not the victim's. What's more, anyone can be a target of bullying, even strong, athletic, and popular kids. 

So, why are kids bullied? There are a variety of reasons why bullies target others, including everything from personality differences to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here are some common characteristics that can lead to bullying:

Targets May Be Good at What They Do

A lot of times kids will be bullied because they get a lot of positive attention for something. This attention could be everything from excelling in sports, making the cheerleading squad, or getting the editor’s position on the school newspaper. Bullies target these students because they either feel inferior or they worry that their abilities are being overshadowed by the target’s abilities.

Targets May Be Intelligent, Determined and Creative

At school, these students go that extra mile on schoolwork. Or they learn very quickly and move through projects and assignments faster than other students. For instance, gifted students are often targeted for being smart. Kids who do well in school are frequently targeted by other students because they stand out from others.

Targets May Have Personal Vulnerabilities 

Children who are introverted, anxious, or submissive are more likely to be bullied than kids who are extroverted and assertive. In fact, some researchers believe that kids who lack self-esteem may attract kids who are prone to bully. What's more, kids who engage in people pleasing are often targeted by bullies, especially mean girls, because they are easy to manipulate. Finally, research shows that kids suffering from depression or stress-related conditions also may be more likely to be bullied.

Targets May Have Few or No Friends 

Many victims of bullying tend to have fewer friends than children who do not experience bullying. What’s more, they may be rejected by their peers, excluded from social events and may even spend lunch and recess alone. Parents and teachers can prevent bullying of socially-isolated students by helping them develop friendships.

Targets May Be Popular or Well-Liked 

Sometimes bullies target popular or well-liked children because of the threat they pose to the bully. Mean girls are especially likely to target a girl who threatens her popularity or her social standing. In fact, a lot of relational aggression is directly linked to an attempt to climb the social ladder.

Kids will spread rumors, engage in name-calling and cyberbullying in an effort to destroy their popularity.

Targets May Have Physical Features That Attract Attention

Whether a target is short or tall, fat or thin bullies may target them. Almost any type of physical characteristic that is different or unique can attract the attention of bullies. This might even include wearing glasses, having acne, having a large nose, or having ears that stick out. Many times, this type of bullying is extremely painful and damaging to a young person's self-esteem.

Targets May Have an Illness or Disability

Oftentimes, bullies target special needs children.

This can include children who have Asperger’s, autism, ADHD, dyslexia, or any condition that sets them apart. What’s more, kids with conditions like food allergies, asthma, Down Syndrome, and other conditions also can be targeted by bullies.

Targets May Have a Different Sexual Orientation

More often than not, kids are bullied for being gay. In fact, some of the most brutal bullying incidents have involved children who are bullied for their sexual orientation. What's more, prejudicial bullying, if left unchecked can result in serious hate crimes.

Targets May Have Different Religious or Cultural Beliefs

One example of bullying because of religious or cultural beliefs includes the treatment Muslim students received after the 9/11 tragedy. But any student can be bullied for their religious beliefs. Both Christian students and Jewish students are often ridiculed for their beliefs and practices as well.

Targets May Belong to a Different Racial Group

Sometimes kids will bully others because they are of a different race. For instance, Caucasian students may single out African-American students and bully them. Or African-American students may single out Caucasian students and bully them. It happens with all races and in all directions. No race is exempt from being bullied, and no race is exempt from having bullies.

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