Maybe Bullies Just Want to Be Loved

Recently, two studies conducted by George Mason University have concluded that children who bully others are likely doing so out of a desire for attention and acceptance by their peers. One study is based upon the patterns of aggression observed of 1,822 adults who suffer from social anxiety disorder. From the study it was found the one of five reported increased levels of aggressive behavior.

“For people with social anxiety, it may seem like a reasonable strategy to attack and reject other people before those people get a chance to do the same to them,” says an excerpt from the study that was printed in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Another study was done amongst Dutch elementary school children, who answered a questionnaire about which kids they did or did not get along with and who bullied whom. What researchers found is that children who were identified as bullies had a tendency to target children who had already been ostracized or ignored by their peers. In short, it was found that bullies tend to seek out children who are less popular to pick on, in order to be accepted and seen as more popular.

“Bullies are very strategic in their behavior,” explains the lead author, René Veenstra. “They’re looking for attention and affection from their own peer group.”

The motivation behind bullying as well as other kinds of interaction amongst students comes from an emotional basis and need for acceptance by others. LifeBound’s People Smarts for Teenagers covers a wide range of topics dealing with emotions and social life, from making friends to understanding one’s peers. To learn more about People Smarts for Teenagers and LifeBound’s materials visit or email


New York Times

Maybe Bullies Just Want to Be Loved


Published: May 21, 2010

THAT kid who turned your son’s second grade year into a tear- and bruise-ridden ordeal. The anonymous twit who sullied your daughter’s name on Formspring. Your own fifth-grade tormentor, circa 1979, gone but never well enough forgotten. Bad seeds, all? Or perhaps just anxious? Eager to win approval and affection? Two studies out this spring look at bullies’ motivations, inner workings and, yes, feelings.

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