Bullying—Who Is At Risk?

No single factor puts a child at risk of being bullied or bullying others. Bullying can happen anywhere—cities, suburbs, or rural towns—and to anyone.

But some kids are more at risk than others.

Little Girl Crying

Children at Risk of Being Bullied

Generally, children who are bullied have one or more of the following risk factors:

• Are perceived as different from their peers, such as being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or different clothing, being new to a school, or being unable to afford what kids consider “cool”

• Are perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves

• Are depressed, anxious, or have low self esteem

• Are less popular than others and have few friends

• Do not get along well with others, seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention

However, even if a child has these risk factors, it doesn’t mean that they will be bullied.

Children More Likely to Bully Others

There are two types of kids who are more likely to bully others:

• Some are well-connected to their peers, have social power, are overly concerned about their popularity, and like to dominate or be in charge of others.

• Others are more isolated from their peers and may be depressed or anxious, have low self esteem, be less involved in school, be easily pressured by peers, or not identify with the emotions or feelings of others.

Children who have these factors are also more likely to bully others;

• Are aggressive or easily frustrated

• Have less parental involvement or having issues at home

• Think badly of others

• Have difficulty following rules

• View violence in a positive way

• Have friends who bully others

Remember, those who bully others do not need to be stronger or bigger than those they bully. The power imbalance can come from a number of sources—popularity, strength, cognitive ability—and children who bully may have more than one of these characteristics.

stopbullyinggov website Opens in new windowInformation from stopbullying.gov a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.


LGBTQ—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning—youth were bullied at school at nearly twice the rate of their heterosexual peers, according to the the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (PDF)

According to the survey, 33% U.S. high school students who self-identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) report having been bullied on school property—compared to 17.1% among heterosexual students. More than a fourth of LGB students (27.1%) say they've been cyberbullied, more than double of heterosexual students (13.3%).


Kids With Disabilities & Special Needs

Any number of factors— physical vulnerability, social skill challenges or intolerant environments—may increase the bullying risk to kids with disabillities and special needs. 

Kids with special health needs, such as epilepsy or food allergies, also may be at higher risk of being bullied. Bullying can include making fun of kids because of their allergies or exposing them to the things they are allergic to. In these cases, bullying is not just serious, it can mean life or death.