Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively impose domination over others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite is the perception, by the bully or by others, of an imbalance of social or physical power. Behaviors used to assert such domination can include verbal harassment or threat, physical assault or coercion, and such acts may be directed repeatedly towards particular targets. Justifications and rationalizations for such behavior sometimes include differences of class, race, religion, gender, sexuality, appearance, behavior, strength, size or ability. If bullying is done by a group, it is called mobbing. “Targets” of bullying are also sometimes referred to as “victims” of bullying.
Bullying can be defined in many different ways. The UK currently has no legal definition of bullying, while some U.S. states have laws against it. Bullying consists of four basic types of abuse – emotional (sometimes called relational), verbal, physical, and cyber. It typically involves subtle methods of coercion such as intimidation.
Bullying ranges from simple one-on-one bullying to more complex bullying in which the bully may have one or more “lieutenants” who may seem to be willing to assist the primary bully in his or her bullying activities. Bullying in school and the workplace is also referred to as peer abuse. Robert W. Fuller has analyzed bullying in the context of rankism.
A bullying culture can develop in any context in which human beings interact with each other. This includes school, family, the workplace, home, and neighborhoods. In a 2012 study of male adolescent football players, “the strongest predictor was the perception of whether the most influential male in a player’s life would approve of the bullying behavior”.