The 10 Types of Bullying

There are many types of bullying and all of them are harmful to the victim. If you find yourself in this situation, ask for help.
The 10 Types of Bullying
Samuel Antonio Sánchez Amador

Written and verified by el biólogo Samuel Antonio Sánchez Amador.

Last update: 04 June, 2023

Bullying is a serious social problem on all levels. It’s no wonder, as its prevalence remains at alarming rates despite multiple educational efforts to stop it. In fact, the National Bullying Prevention Center in the United States estimates that 20.2% of students in the region suffer some type of harassment or bullying at any given time. What’s more, there are different types of bullying.

Although bullying is usually linked to the student environment, it should be noted that it’s also very present on the internet, in the workplace, and even in family and romantic nuclei. We invite you to continue reading because in the following lines, we’ll dissect what this social phenomenon consists of and how to detect it before it causes serious effects on the person who suffers from it.

What is bullying?

Harassment, better known as bullying, is defined by the National Center Against Bullying as “an improper, continuous, and deliberate use of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical, and social behavior that’s intended to cause physical, social, or psychological harm.” It implies the presence of a power figure (the abuser) and a vulnerable one (the abused).

Bullying is considered a subcategory of aggressive behavior. It’s made up of the following pillars:

  1. Hostile Intentions: The abuser may not know to what extent their behaviors affect the abused person, but intentions are never good to begin with.
  2. An imbalance of power: The person who abuses is in a situation of objective superiority (for example, they’re the boss or the teacher of the victim) or self-perceived superiority, that is, they simply believe that they’re better than the other party who suffers. On the other hand, the victim adopts a position of submission, as they feel incapable of stopping the situation.
  3. Repetition over time: Even if there’s no fixed period, the harassment must be repeated to be considered bullying. Studies with specific population groups indicate average intervals of 2 to 3 years, although it can be much more or much less.

The repetition of aggressive behaviors is a key aspect for a specific situation to be perceived as bullying. For example, isolated episodes of social rejection, poor responses in specific contexts, random acts of intimidation or aggression, or fights of mutual incitement don’t fall within this definition.

Harassment must be repeated over time and more or less sustained. Isolated attacks aren’t part of this terminological conglomerate.

Figures and statistics

A teenage girl being bullied by her peers.
Bullying is a fairly common behavior in certain populations and situations. Unfortunately, this usually leaves psychological consequences for the victims.

Sources already cited put the seriousness of bullying into perspective with official statistics. We’ll show you some of the most relevant numbers:

  • 1 in 5 American students report being bullied. Men suffer more physical violence than women (6 and 4% respectively), while girls are more likely to be intimidated and isolated by rumors and lies (18 and 9%).
  • Almost half of the people bullied at a certain stage are sure it will happen again.
  • Bullying increases the chances of experiencing anxiety, depression, sleeping difficulties, poorer performance, and school abandonment.
  • 15% of the students who report having suffered bullying manifested persecution and intimidation on the internet. Cyberbullying is an essential part of these power dynamics.
  • Victims of bullying are 2 to 9 times more likely to commit suicide compared to the rest of the population. Up to 14% of students think about killing themselves (and up to 7% try).

As you can see, bullying is still a serious problem today. We’ll show you the types that exist and how to combat them in the following lines, but if you feel that you suffer from violence in any of its types, we recommend that you seek professional help. Remember that every human being deserves a life in peace and no one has the right to belittle you for any reason.

The 10 types of bullying

Human beings are extremely complex, and our interactions go far beyond the physical (for better and for worse). Therefore, today several types of bullying are known and each of them works with different dynamics. We’ll tell you what they are in the following paragraphs.

1. Verbal harassment

This is by far the most common type of bullying in society. Professional portals estimate that 77% of students globally suffer some type of verbal bullying. This social dynamic can be extremely damaging to the victim, even if it never comes to physical blows.

Verbal harassment doesn’t involve any type of physical contact, but it’s usually the vehicle that allows abusers to reach other more obvious types of aggressions. Some of the behaviors that show this dynamic are the following:

  • Teasing and derogatory nicknames, which often refer to physicality (especially in the school environment)
  • Spreading false rumors that can harm the affected person in the short or long term
  • Threatening the victim in a more or less serious way
  • Yelling or badmouthing someone without an apparent cause and in social situations that don’t warrant it
  • Laughing at the way the abused person’s speech or expressions
  • Using gestures or postures (not just words) to laugh at someone or make them feel insecure

It’s often argued that women are more prone to verbal harassment than men. In any case, gender dynamics are becoming less stable and the typical male “inherent violence” is a stereotype that we must combat. Both boys and girls are at risk of being involved in these damaging dynamics.

2. Physical harassment

This is one of the most obvious types of bullying, especially among young children. This variant of bullying requires contact between the abuser and the abused, although it’s not always as obvious as punching someone in the face. The physical component is essential in power dynamics and it’s estimated that 40% of bullies have a more robust constitution than the victim.

Some of the typical behaviors carried out during physical bullying are the following:

  • Hitting the victim directly or making less obvious harmful contact, such as lightly kicking or pinching
  • Spitting on the victim
  • Tripping them, pushing them down stairs, and other acts that prevent them from walking normally
  • Taking the possessions of the abused and throwing them away, breaking them, or hiding them
  • Stealing money or property from the victim, either through confrontation or without realizing it

As you can see, not all types of physical bullying involve hitting or injury. The simple act of repeatedly violating someone’s property with bad intentions represents a more than obvious type of bullying, for example.

3. Social harassment

Social bullying, also known as covert bullying, is the most difficult subtype to detect. This form of abuse consists of reducing the status of the victim in a collective, slow, and progressive way, to the point that it allows behaviors that were initially unthinkable. As it’s succinct and slow-acting, it’s usually equated to the verbal type (only that it’s issued collectively).

Some of the behaviors included in this type of harassment are the following:

  • Lying about the victim and spreading rumors about them
  • Collectively emitting gestures of disgust when the victim reaches the specific social situation
  • Make repeated jokes that ridicule or leave the abused person out
  • Jointly imitate the victim from a denigrating perspective
  • Encouraging other people to actively neglect or abuse the victim
  • Damaging the reputation of the target person or preventing them from being part of a specific social dynamic

Human beings are social by nature. Therefore, it’s not surprising that those at risk of exclusion are weaker and more prone to developing long-term psychiatric disorders. Remember the following: The repeatedly meaningless failure to include someone in a group of people is also a form of bullying.

The harassed person may feel that the fault or the problem is on them, as several people make them believe it simultaneously.

4. Mobbing

Mobbing is one of the most common types of social harassment nowadays and is applied mainly to the workplace. Cited sources estimate that collective abuse in the workplace affects 10-15% of active workers. Undoubtedly, this variant tells us that bullying and unhealthy dynamics aren’t just for children.

This type of harassment can be horizontal (attacks between colleagues), vertical descending (from a boss to an employee), vertical ascending (from subordinates to a position of power), or more than 1 at a time. Some of the dynamics that show it are the following:

  1. Intimidating employees by making them believe that they may be fired or have their pay cut for no apparent reason.
  2. Ignoring one of the members of the labor chain. This includes not taking their opinions into account, not answering their questions, making them void, or interacting with everyone in the room except them.
  3. Isolating or excluding the victim from work activities, from official meetings to out-of-office encounters.
  4. Rationalizing vexatious acts towards the individual (“You don’t work enough”, “I do it so that you can try harder” and many other justifications).
  5. Minimizing insecurities, questions, or ideas that the victim may express in the work environment.
  6. Making the employee feel constantly to blame for everything bad that happens in the company.
  7. Blocking, belittling, and dismissing the work done by the victim. This includes making them feel like all the other workers are doing their job better than they are.

Mobbing is expressed in work dynamics in a very subtle way. In any case, almost all people who suffer from it agree that they feel unheard, annoying, and like an unnecessary part of their work environment. Unfortunately, this practice is common in places where positions of power are very well-defined and jobs are very distant.

5. Internet harassment or cyberbullying

A woman using a smart phone.
With the popularization of social networks, various forms of cyberbullying have risen to become one of the main types of harassment.

As we’ve said in previous lines, up to 15% of students who experience bullying report having been threatened, belittled, or displaced on the internet. This means of communication helps to build bridges and encourages the emergence of certain very positive social dynamics, but it also makes it easier for abusers to spread lies and compromised images of their victims.

Cyberbullying can be obvious or subtle, and many young people feed into it without realizing it, as the simple act of sharing a compromising photograph of a vulnerable person already encourages it. At this point, it should be noted that distributing private material isn’t only unethical, it’s also punishable by law.

Unlike verbal harassment, in cyberbullying, words and actions are recorded in databases. Therefore, it’s easy to unequivocally incriminate the people who exercise it.

Other types of harassment

We’ve shown you 5 general types of bullying, but there are many more. The following list is dedicated to citing all the remaining variants. But keep one thing in mind: Even if we dwell less on them, they’re just as important and painful as those already mentioned above. We’ll highlight the following:

  1. Harassment due to disability: It has been shown in multiple works and studies that people with some type of disability are at risk when it comes to being harassed. Victims may have motor disabilities (use a wheelchair or lack a limb, among others) or psychological disabilities (Down syndrome, autism spectrum, and more).
  2. LGBTQIA+ harassment: This type of harassment takes place when a person (or a group of them) constantly instigates another individual because of their identity, their gender expression, or their sexual predilections. We mustn’t forget that people within the trans community are up to 4 times more susceptible to violence than heteronormative individuals.
  3. Legal harassment: Abusers sometimes use their freedoms or loopholes to make life miserable for the victim. Often, these people constantly and unjustifiably accuse their victims and cause them to lose significant amounts of money on legal defense.
  4. Parental bullying: Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a child’s biggest abusers to be their parents. Neglect, physical violence, intermittent reinforcement, and many other behaviors are considered bullying of infants, despite the fact that they stem from their parent figures.
  5. Sexual harassment: This term can be used as a synonym for a crime (rape in any of its forms), but also to refer to those vexatious behaviors based on the gender of the victim. For example, a woman can be verbally abused in her work environment just because of her gender.

Systematic harassment is usually carried out by privileged social classes toward the most vulnerable minorities, such as those belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community, ethnic groups other than the dominant ones, or gender spectra other than the normative ones. In these cases, the harassment is collective, and inaction encourages its perpetuation.

Not all types of bullying are individualized. Sometimes, society in general turns its back on groups or individuals for their out-of-the-norm traits.

The types of bullying and its social importance

Bullying is usually associated with the student stage (especially during the first years), as young children tend to be unsympathetic, somewhat self-centered, and require neural and social development to know how to differentiate the moral from the immoral. While it’s true that many verbal and physical attacks occur during childhood, it’s impossible to deny that bullying also affects adults.

If, due to your employment situation, sexual condition, university status, ethnicity, gender, or any other train, you’ve seen yourself represented in these lines, we encourage you to seek professional and even legal help. A psychologist can help you overcome abuse, but sometimes it must be reported to the law if it involves criminal acts.

Este texto se ofrece únicamente con propósitos informativos y no reemplaza la consulta con un profesional. Ante dudas, consulta a tu especialista.