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How many children bully and what do we know about them?

Any person is capable of displaying bullying behaviour. It is important to ensure we don’t make assumptions about children who are bullying others.

This page summarises some of the research about children who bully others although there is a real need for further research. All references in this document are included in ABA guide at the bottom of this page. 

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Ditch the Label's research shows that 3% of children admit to bullying others when asked directly. However, in our survey of 28 thousand children and young people through our All Together anti-bullying programme, we asked children about the behaviours they display rather than directly asking about bullying. These responses were analysed by Goldsmith’s University. They found that:

  • 43% of children had bullied others occasionally.
  • 8% of children reported bullying others frequently.
  • Boys are more likely to bully others with 49% of boys compared to 36% of girls reported bullying behaviour (frequently or occasionally).
  • Children with SEND are slightly more likely to bullying others (46%) compared to those without SEND (42%). Remember: Whilst there is evidence to suggest children with SEND are slightly more likely to display bullying behaviour than their peers, it is also important to remember that evidence shows children with SEND are twice as likely to experience bullying than their peers. 
  • The most common types of bullying are name calling and teasing.
  • Children who bully others just as likely to have poor wellbeing as those who are being bullied. 

Anyone is capable of displaying bullying behaviours and there is not a significant amount of research relating to the common behaviours that children who bully exhibit but research shows that children who bully are more likely to:

  • Find challenges to their self-esteem difficult to handle
  • Show moral disengagement – separating themselves from the impact of their actions or minimising their role.
  • Have lower empathy.
  • Have poorer communication with parents and experiencing bullying from family members.
  • Be seen by others as powerful and having high status.

There is some research that shows that there might be three different kinds of personality traits prevalent among children that bully:

  1. Popular and socially intelligent.
  2. Relatively popular and average social intelligence.
  3. Unpopular and lower than average social intelligence (the smallest group in numbers).


The research term ‘bully-victim’ describes young people who both bully and are bullied. It is not known what percentage of children are bully-victims. Research shows that bully-victims may have the poorest outcomes. For example, they are more likely to experience anxiety and depression. They may be more likely to fall into the 3rd group listed above where they lack popularity and social intelligence.

25 Feb 2021