6 Types of Bullying Explained

There are 6 types of bullying that are commonly known and we'll discuss them all in detail right here. Bullying is more than a simple blow to the stomach, a painful bathroom wedgie, or some humiliating name-calling.

It's a lot more vast than that. It can be easy to spot, or it can also go unnoticed for years. If you want to protect your child against any one of the 6 types of bullying – you will need to learn how to take appropriate action. 

This article will break down and teach you the most important aspects of this, starting with: The various types of bullies that your child may encounter, and each one's specific character traits. 

But before we get into this, we need to understand the true definition of bullying is... 


What is the definition of bullying?

Seesaw showing imbalance of power existing between a bully and victim

Bullying is intentional, repeated and hurtful acts, words or behaviour that one person or a group of people inflict onto others.

The victim has trouble defending themselves against the bully because a power imbalance exists between the two parties. Factors such as the size and strength of the bully play a large role. 

By looking at the definition of bullying, we can already see that it can come in many forms. As long as the actions are consistent, intentional and there is an imbalance of power – it is considered bullying. 

So, what does this really means for any potential victims? 

Types of bullying in real life

boy crying alone - types of bullying

Eric is 10 years old and goes to school with two bullies. He gets attacked by both of them, but in very different ways, which is very confusing. The first bully is called James. He and Eric have many classes together.

Even though James has never physically hurt Eric or said anything bad to his face, he always excludes Eric from group projects. Eric feels ignored all the time, no matter how hard he tries, he feels invisible.

The second bully is completely different; her name is Nina. Eric often sees Nina during their lunch break or on the playground. Nina likes to make fun of Eric because he's a little overweight.

Sometimes, while they're eating lunch, she will call him a pig from across the room and throw food at his face. She always laughs at him during gym class and tells him to go on a diet. 

Both James and Nina are bullies, but they definitely don't attack Eric in the same way. This brings us to the next part of bullying, it’s important to know that there are only two main categories that all types of bullying fall into, direct and indirect bullying.

Direct and indirect bullying 

girls pointing and laughing at boy - direct and indirect bullying

Direct bullying suggests the attacks are open and confrontational. While indirect bullying suggests the attacks are quite discrete and only really noticed through social isolation. 

What’s interesting is that even though direct attacks (such as hitting, kicking, and pushing) are the ‘traditional’ types of bullying. Indirect attacks (such as spreading rumours, excluding others from groups, and saying hurtful things) are usually a lot more common.

Of course, this does depend on the situation.

You may associate boys with direct physical attacks and girls with indirect verbal attacks. And while this perception is understandable, it’s not always true. It’s actually really important not to gender-stereotype here.

Girls are just as capable of physical attacks (such as stealing and vandalising personal property), as boys are capable of verbal attacks, (such as slurring or spreading rumours).

When you're trying to understand the various types of bullying and what your children could be exposed to, it’s best to take an open-minded approach. 

6 types of bullying explained

Physical bullying

boy being tripped - physical bullying

Physical bullying is often quite blatant and the easiest of the 6 types of bullying to spot. In this case, the bully uses physical actions to get power and control over their targets. It’s simple, straightforward and effective. As mentioned, the bully needs to: 

  • Repeatedly target the same victim.

  • Intend to hurt, embarrass, or intimidate the victim.

  • Be stronger, or have a higher social standing than the victim. There needs to be an evident imbalance of power between the two parties – either way.

Examples of physical bullying

The main forms of physical bullying (or traditional bullying) include: Hitting, kicking, slapping, pushing, punching, hair-pulling, taking money or belongings and vandalising property.

Verbal bullying 

Although verbal bullying is considered to be less dangerous than physical bullying the psychological effects of this type of bullying can have a severe impact on a child, much like physical bullying, is quite easy to see. But instead of using physical aggression, bullies use language to demean and hurt others.

Examples of verbal bullying

The main forms of verbal bullying include: Threatening, degrading, cruel teasing, name-calling, and taunting.

Relational aggression/social bullying

girl being ostracized  - Social bullying

This kind of bullying is a lot sneakier than any of the other 6 types of bullying. It can go unnoticed by parents and teachers for a very long time. (If not throughout a child’s entire schooling career!)

The bully’s objective is to boost their own social status by manipulating, hurting, and damaging their peer's reputation.

The main forms of relational aggression include: Social exclusion, isolation, malicious gossiping, extortion, defamation, humiliation and blackmailing.

Sexual bullying

#meetoo girl- Sexual bullying

Sexual bullying is when someone repeatedly attacks another person in a harmful and humiliating way because of their sexual orientation, sexual development, physical appearance and attractiveness.

In some cases, this form of bullying can go as far as sexual assault, harassment and abuse.

Examples of Sexual bullying

Some examples of sexual bullying include: Vulgar gestures, crude comments, unsolicited physical advances, sexual name-calling, sexual blackmailing and sexual harassment.


girl being teased at online - cyberbullying

Bullying is not a new concern. It's something most of us have experienced or witnessed growing up. And it's something we can't pretend our children won’t be exposed to as well.

However, a new type of bullying has been thrown into the mix that wasn't there 20 years ago: cyberbullying.

As kids growing up before the age of technology, bullying would only be a threat at school or in particular social contexts. It was not something we had to worry about once we got home.

Today, technology has made it impossible for kids to escape hurtful commentary and threats from bullies online. Whether it's through instant messages, e-mails, chat rooms or social networks such as Facebook and Instagram, the options are endless. 

Cyberbullying is common amongst children who have increasingly early access to technology without guided supervision. If an adult is involved in the harassment, it’s referred to as cyberstalking or cyber-harassment.

Examples of cyberbullying

Some examples of cyberbullying include: Sending mean or hurtful texts or emails; using embarrassing photos or messages as blackmail; posting hurtful content about someone on social media; spreading rumours or gossip; persistently harassing an individual online; and, pretending to be another person and creating a fake online profile.  

Prejudicial/discriminatory bullying

kids being racist - Prejudicial bullying

Prejudicial bullying can be a form of attack or a motive behind an attack. It is common amongst tweens and teens who are not familiar with others of different races, religions or even sexual orientations and who learnt to treat other groups with less respect.

This kind of the 6 types of bullying is often based on prejudices shared amongst large groups of children (or even adults) and can be expressed through physical, verbal, relational, physical, and even sexual attacks.

Examples of prejudicial/discriminatory bullying

Some examples of prejudicial/discriminatory bullying include: homophobic or transgender bullying; racial or religious bullying; and disability or body-image bullying. 

The different types of bullies

Beyond the 6 types of bullying commonly seen at schools amongst children. It’s also helpful to understand the nature of the different types of bullies you’re dealing with before taking appropriate action.

What influences someone to adopt the psychology of a bully depends on many factors. Each bully has their own personality, set goals and motivations. 

However, there is a common grounding in each type of bullies unique behaviour – each act of violence needs to be triggered. 

Getting a better understanding of the different triggers that provoke your child's bully can help you can pre-empt attacks more efficiently. 

Different type of bullies can be separated into these two main categories: 

Proactive bullies 

These bullies don’t need a reason to be provoked and are generally more blatantly confrontational towards other children. Funnily enough, proactive bullies are often popular at school as they are usually quite confident and charismatic individuals. 

Proactive bullies feel a sense of entitlement and always look to improve their social status by proving their strength, intelligence or talent at the detriment of others. 

It’s also quite possible to get proactive victims as well. And if you’re having a hard time imagining this – just think about the old story of The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf.

This particular group of victims provoke fights or aggressive encounters with others and are quick to cry or show exaggerated responses in situations of conflict.

As you can imagine, unlike proactive bullies who are often cheered-on and liked by their group of friends, proactive victims (much like the little boy who cried wolf) are often ostracised at school. 

Reactive bullies

father bullying mother infront of child - Reactive bullies

Reactive bullies have been subjected to bullying in the past and retaliate by becoming bullies themselves. They are also known as bully-victims. 

Usually, they will bully those that are weaker than them in an attempt to regain some of the power or control that they feel has been taken away from them. 

This kind of bullying can appear to be quite hostile or callous – and it often leaves the bully rather unliked by his or her peers. This only adds to the cycle of bullying as the less popular the bully is the more frustrated they will become, and the more prone to bullying others they will be. 

Dealing with different types of bullying 

mom helping daughter deal with bullying

If you’re concerned that your child is being bullied and you want to take a proactive approach to deal with the situation.

Start by asking yourself these three questions:

As a parent, there’s no easy way to answer questions two and three. And there’s no silver bullet you can use to provide an immediate solution to your child dealing with bullying.

While a completely bully-free environment may be difficult to achieve, it is possible to create a positive learning environment where everyone feels safe and heard by improving empathy and social skills.

What’s crucial is knowing how to go about it in the right way. Just as an aggressive and impulsive reaction to the situation can be detrimental to your child’s social integration, a hands-on, well-organised intervention can improve the way your child deals with attacks and confrontations throughout his or her life.

3 ways to help your child right now 

parents helping their child deal with bullying

Keeping clean and open communication with your child is the ultimate goal if you want to help them. Although this isn't easy, we have found that activity-driven tasks can help make this process feel more natural than a basic question-and-answer approach. 

The 3 things you can do to help protect your child from bullying include: 

Taking their complaints seriously

This may seem silly, but it's actually very important. Kids often bottle up their feelings when they feel as though their home environment is unreceptive or unsympathetic to their issues – they want to be heard.

The most important thing is to stay calm, acknowledge the issue at hand, and provide comfort. Where you can, try to suggest ways to handle an issue as opposed to giving an order. The idea is to guide your child, so that they can slowly start making the right decisions for themselves. 

Reinforce your values

Kids need to develop a sense of right-and-wrong for themselves. However, guidance is definitely needed. Ideally, you want your child to be aware of and acknowledge hostile situations at school; so that when they are faced with a dangerous interaction, they can respond intelligently and not emotionally.

A great way to encourage your child to respond maturely and ethically towards a bully is by putting them in a hypothetical situation first and asking them what they believe the best way to respond would be.

For example, watching a movie together that has a clear antagonist and protagonist. You can point out the different qualities of each character and try to spark a conversation about why it's important to stand for your values in social circumstances where you could easily be persuaded to do otherwise. 

group of people playing tug-of-war - bullying protection

Teach your child how to protect themselves

Confidence really is key here. The earlier you can teach your child how to be comfortable in their own skin and confident in the way they interact with peers – the better.

Confidence and assertiveness will disempower a bully quickly as they won't get the response they're looking for from their attack.

The best ways to teach confidence include: Helping set realistic goals at school, and encouraging them to pursue their talents; Encouraging them to participate in sports as it requires a lot of communication and relationship building with peers.

Finally, Instilling a sense of adventure and independence by encouraging them to do activities that are safe to do on their own, such as baking, walking the dog, or even going camping with friends.

Activity-based learning is a great way to not only impart valuable information. But ensure that whatever is learnt feels attainable and practical.

This is why we have created a free Bully Awareness course that helps parents be proactive with their children to help protect them from becoming another bully-victim. 

Click on the below button and join the free course if you have not completed it yet.

If your child is currently being bullied and you are in need of some guided assistance, please feel free to leave a comment below and our skilled team will respond with some advice on how you can manage the situation better.


Türkmen, D., Dokgöz, M., Akgöz, S., Eren, B., Vural, H., Polat, H. (2013) Bullying Among Highschool Students. Maedica a Journal of Clinical Medicine, [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3865123/ [Accessed 6 July 2018]

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