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Bullying Initiative


—Developed by Lorna Browne, PhD, June 2012

Bullycide: A term coined by Neil Marr in the book he co-authored with Tim Field, Bullycide: Death at Playtime, to describe suicides associated with bullying. Suicide, at 11 percent of deaths among teens ages 11-19 in the U.S. in 2010, ranked as the nation’s third cause of death. Kim and Leventhal’s (2008) review of research into the link between suicide and bullying found that “any participation in bullying increases the risk of suicidal ideations and/or behaviors in a broad spectrum of youth” (p. 133). Hinduja and Patchin (2010a) found that there is an increased likelihood of suicide for both victims and bullies in connection with bullying. notes that bullycide can emerge from constant bullying from peers, authority figures such as teachers, coaches or other adults especially when the victim does not believe that s/he has friends to rely on.

Bullying: is intentional, aggressive behavior involving an imbalance of power that causes harm to another person. A person may be bullied by one or more persons. Bullying is usually repeated over time. For general descriptions of bullying, see the classic definition provided by the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Dan Olweus’ research with bullying which originated in Norway served as a catalyst for research on the subject internationally.

Bullying Circle: Circle of interaction that exists during in-person bullying. Olweus is credited with identifying several roles in the bullying process including the bully, his/her henchmen, his/her target (or victims), active and passive supporters, potential witnesses, resister/defender(s). To see a graphic of this circle, click here. Salmivalli et al (1996) also examined roles assumed by those who participate in the bullying process.

Bully: One who intentionally harms an individual or group of individuals in person, on the Internet or telephone. Olweus (1993/2005) noted that a bully’s victims are often weaker than they are and that they are “relatively defenseless” (p. 58). A bully may also harm another socially/emotionally through his/her efforts to exclude one or more persons from a group. Bullies were categorized by Olweus in 1978 into three categories: the aggressive bully, the passive bully, and the bully victim. Aggressive bullies are the most common face of bullying and are characterized by aggressive/angry behavior with a desire to dominate without regard to their victims’ feelings. Passive bullies are not as socially skilled as aggressive bullies, but they are most likely to join in and contribute to bullying initiated by others. Bully victims are usually stronger than their personal targets although bully victims have been bullied themselves previously.

Bystander: A bystander is a person who observes a bullying incident. S/he may simply witness the event and not get involved in any way other than witnessing it. S/he may encourage the bully in his/her bullying, s/he may actively participate in bullying, or s/he may intervene to stop the bullying. Bystanders comprise the largest segment of those involved a bullying event.

Cyberbullying: is a form of bullying (also known as electronic bullying) that occurs via the Internet in e-mail, chat rooms, on websites, or blogs designed specifically to bully someone. Cyberbullying also occurs on social media sites such as Facebook, Myspace or Twitter. A Facts About Cyberbullyingquiz available at the Cyberbullying Research Center overviews the main elements of cyberbullying. The Cyberbullying Research Center also offers other resources for teens to increase their understanding of cyberbullying and how to respond to it. A free tool kit from Common Sense Media is available to help educators prevent cyberbullying.

Cyberbullicide: a form of bullycide. This term was coined by Hinduja and Patchin (2010a) to describe suicide indirectly or directly influenced by experiences with online aggression. These authors maintain an online cyberbullying center that offers several helpful resources including a fact sheet related to cyberbullying and suicide.

Electronic Bullying: occurs when electronic devices such as computers and telephones are used to bully one or more persons via the Internet in e-mail, chat rooms, on websites or blogs, or on social media sites such as Facebook, Myspace or Twitter.

Emotional Bullying: according to Georgia’s Department of Health and Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (n.d.), emotional bullying includes “extortion/blackmailing, defaming, manipulation, isolation and rejection; hazing; terrorizing with threats or the threat of terrorizing; and rating or ranking of personal characteristics such as race, ethnicity, religion, disability, perceived or actual sexual orientation, and overall peer pressure to engage in activities with which the victim is unknowledgeable or uncomfortable.”

Hazing: According to, “’Hazing” refers to any activity expected of someone joining a group (or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person's willingness to participate.”  Hazing activities may include physical (including sexual) abuse and other hazardous behaviors. Hazing is seen among persons of both sexes in fraternities and other university organizations, on athletic teams, in the military, and in other social groups.

Physical Bullying: intentional, negative action (such as biting, hitting, poking, pushing, kicking, pinching, restraining, shoving, strangling, tripping, destroying or stealing property, excessive tickling, making someone do something such as ingest food, object or substance against his/her will, making someone carry heavy objects) that involves physical contact and which harms another person (Department of Health and Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, n.d.; Olweus, 1993/2005).

Relational/Social Bullying: is designed to damage a person or group’s social life by attacking his/her reputation and/or relationships. Examples of relational/social bullying provided on include purposely excluding someone from a social interaction or event, advising others to not be friends with someone, gossiping and spreading rumors about someone, and/or embarrassing someone in public.

Sexual Bullying: occurs when someone intentionally uses his/her power to harm another using unwanted sexual behaviors and messages (such as vulgar comments, sexting, showing or sending someone sexually explicit photos, spreading sexual rumors, engaging in inappropriate touching, unwanted solicitations for sex, or using homophobic slurs). Although both sexual bullying and sexual harassment may include similar behaviors and both may cause harm, Smolinski (2011) noted that the distinctions between them are important because sexual harassment is protected by Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, and schools can lose funding if they violate the provisions of this federal legislation by allowing sexual harassment on their school campuses.

Upstander: an individual who "prevents or or reduces the bullying they see, or comes to the aid of another child who is being bullied by showing them kindness" (Gunderson Health System, 2013). suggests that upstanders do some of the following:

  1. 1. Take action by telling the bully to stop
  2. 2. Take action by getting others to stand up with them to the bully
  3. 3. Take action by helping the victim
  4. 4. Take action by shifting the focus and redirecting the bully away from the victim
  5. 5. Take action by telling an adult who can help

Verbal Bullying: words are used to harm a victim in the form of “name calling, teasing, gossiping, taunting, verbal threats, public chastising and cajoling; spreading rumors and sending threatening and intimidating messages via email or text messaging” Georgia’s Department of Health and Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (n.d.). adds inappropriate sexual comments to their list of examples of verbal abuse.

Victim: the target of a bully’s or group of bullies’ abusive behavior.