Types of Bullying

There is a lot of media around bullying in popular culture, often depicted in movies and television. This exposure leads many to an understanding of what bullying is. Beyond this, most people have interactions with bullying from either side of the equation. While it may feel like this is a new occurrence in schools and online, bullying has always been around. However, in the last few decades, it has gotten more and more recognition.

In 2014, the CDC released the first federal definition of bullying in the United States, which stated: “CDC defines bullying as any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths, who are not siblings or current dating partners, that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance, and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated.” The issue is still prevalent today, with “about 20% of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying nationwide.”

As defined by the National Centre Against Bullying, or NCAB, there are four types of bullying: physical, verbal, social, and cyberbullying.

Physical bullying

Physical bullying is easy enough to understand, as it is any act of repeated, unwanted physical violence against another person with the intent to harm. Physical bullying causes both immediate and long-lasting damage to the victim. Examples include: “hitting, kicking, tripping, pinching and pushing or damaging property.” This form of bullying is more likely to affect male students than female students (6% vs 4%), according to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.

Verbal bullying

Again, verbal bullying is easy to understand as it is the verbal equivalent of physical bullying. This is the type of bullying that includes name-calling, insults, teasing, and verbal abuse. While less visual than physical violence, it has a lasting effect on children as they can internalize the feelings placed upon them. Of the different types of bullying, this is the second most prevalent kind, as threats and name-calling make up 16% of the bullying recorded by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2019.

Social bullying

Harder to recognize, social bullying is a covert type of bullying that is aimed at a person’s reputation or social status rather than their physical or mental state, but it stills has a huge affect on the person being bullied.  NCAB shares examples like: “lying and spreading rumors, playing nasty jokes to embarrass and humiliate, and encouraging others to socially exclude someone.” Of the different types of bullying, this is the most prevalent kind, as purposeful exclusion and rumor spreading make up 18% of the bullying recorded by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2019.


The newest type of bullying, cyberbullying, much like social bullying, is done without the victim present. Cyberbullying is defined by NCAB as “intentional and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, phones, and other electronic devices.” Through technology and social media that connect us daily, a bully can continue to bully a victim after school hours. This is a mixture of both verbal and social bullying.

In our next article on the topic, we explore how to prevent bullying and stop it. If you know of or have a child or friend who is experiencing bullying, it will be a piece worth looking at to help that friend in need.