Children can begin to show signs of bullying as early as preschool, and studies show these signs increase in prevalence as children mature from first grade into middle school. Research shows that bullying seems to peak during early adolescence, then taper off as children move on to high school. In fact, there are nearly twice as many victims of bullying in the primary grades as in the secondary grades, suggesting that as adolescents mature, they realize this behavior is socially unacceptable.

Bullying can be physical, verbal, or even implied with threatening gestures. As children grow older, teasing and taunting often escalates into physical abuse as children look for a way to prove their dominance and superiority.

Some of the signs that your child is at greater risk of becoming a bully include:

  • Having a temper
  • Exhibiting antisocial behavior
  • Having a low frustration threshold
  • Previous diagnosis of a disorder like ADHD
  • Excessive interest in violent media
  • A history of physical aggression
  • Being teased or bullied at home by a parent and/or sibling
  • Low self-esteem

Younger children who are perceived to be weaker are often victims of bullying. Children who are viewed as quiet, cautious, insecure, “different,” or sensitive are most often the target of taunts, teasing, and harassment. Studies show that being bullied as an adolescent can lead to depression and social problems later in life, which can result in low self-esteem issues.

The most effective form of bullying prevention starts at home. At an early age, parents can teach children how to properly interact socially, resolve conflicts, and deal with anger and stress. Older children have many programs available to them that can educate on how to deal with anger issues. Counseling and screening for psychiatric problems remains the best ways to combat behavioral issues that are found in children that bully.


  • Bullying can start as early as preschool and increase in prevalence until high school.
  • Warning signs that a child is at increased risk of bullying behavior include a strong temper, low frustration level, and history of physical aggression.
  • Providing children with the knowledge of how to properly interact socially resolve conflicts, and properly deal with anger and stress is the best way to prevent bullying.

Last reviewed by Eva Benmeleh, PhD. Review Date: September 2020


  1. At Health. Where and when does bullying begin?
  2. Scholastic Press. Bullying is no laughing matter.
  3. American Family Physician. Childhood Bullying: Implications for Physicians.


  1. Great perspective! This is the first article I’ve ever read on how to recognize the signs that your child may be bullying others. We tend to get defensive about our children if someone else says they are bullying, so we really are the best ones to recognize the signs early and adjust the behaviors ASAP!

    1. I completely agree, Shelley! It’s also a good idea to put a limit on the amount of time they have access to social media. They can get consumed in the drama and interactions that take place during their exposure. It becomes addicting and too hard to pull away, even in the case a cyber bullying which can have devastating effects.

  2. Well my two year old bullies her older sister quite often and she seems to think it is funny! I know she will grow out of this stage but it is difficult to manage because she really hurts her sister sometimes. I am just really hoping that this stages leaves our household quickly!!!


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