What causes bullying? It’s a question with many different correct answers. Bullying is a complex social problem with no single root cause. A multitude of factors contribute to the bullying epidemic, which is also what makes it so resistant towards quick fixes. A school can implement an anti-bully education program or conduct a bully awareness seminar, but because bullying behavior is driven by many different motivations that are deeply ingrained in our social psychology, such skin-deep programs are doomed to fail. Throwing a topical solution on top of a problem that is years, even decades in the making will seldom offer much help.

What Causes Bullying?

Society will never make progress towards slowing the bullying epidemic until we accurately understand what elements cause it. Unfortunately, many of these causes are deeply rooted within the very fabric of society:

1. Labeling people as “others”:

We have a tendency to segregate ourselves into like-minded groups while labeling others who share different interests or beliefs as either strange, evil, or less moral/less human than we are. This is the foundation of bullying, and the more we do this in society as a whole, the more our kids follow suit.

2. The biological causes of bullying:

Tendencies towards bigotry and prejudice are wired into our nature, although these tendencies can be readily overcome if children are nurtured in the proper environment. Sadly, this isn’t happening to the degree it needs to be.

3. Parents contribute to bullying:

Even good parents do many things that make their children more likely to bully others while sending the message that such behavior is OK.

4. Bullying & the media:

Our current media culture is a primary cause of bullying, and a major contributor to the bullying epidemic. You can see bully behavior and bully mentality modeled in one form or another throughout most television programs.

5. Cultural causes of bullying:

Our culture as a whole could be described as a bully culture. We maintain cultural values which idolize power and domination, celebrate acts of violence and aggression, and which tolerates stomping on others for personal gain . . . even rewarding those who use cutthroat tactics. Even as a nation we’ve earned a world-wide reputation as the big bully of planet Earth for the way we try to impose our will through force against other nations. The examples could go on and on. Not only do many cultural values serve as a negative role model for kids, but it’s a sign that bully mentality is well established within our social psychology.

Other Causes of Bullying

In addition to the aforementioned topics that we’ll discuss in detail throughout this chapter, here are some other things that some experts believe may be contributing to the bullying problem:

  1. Some experts believe that the early onset of puberty may be leading to more bullying, since it’s creating a wider range developmental differences between kids. (Week, 11-12-2010)
  2. Some believe that more focus on academics in early childhood is setting the stage for future bullying. By taking away play time and free time in preschool and kindergarten in favor of more structured learning activities, we limit the opportunities for young children to socialize and gain competence in interacting with others.
  3. Electronic communication may be contributing to bullying, but not just because it makes it easier to bully. Electronic communication is more informal and less empathetic, and our reliance on these tools may be impeding the development of important person-to-person social skills.
  4. Shame is known to be a primary cause of bullying, and there are many ways in which shame has increased throughout society.
  5. Narcissism rates among youth have seen a steady rise over the past decade or two, and narcissistic youth are more likely to engage in bullying behaviors.