To be specific, bullying involves ongoing aggressive behavior intended to cause harm or distress in a relationship where there is an imbalance of power, physical or otherwise. Bullying is literally "as old as sin" and can occur at any stage of life, but it is particularly common — and destructive — during childhood and adolescence.
Sadly but not surprisingly, the targets of bullying are often those who are poorly equipped to deal with it: the small, the weak, those who look or act a little different from the crowd, and those who have difficulty making and keeping friends. Bullying goes well beyond the usual horseplay, verbal and otherwise, of childhood and adolescence. It is essentially child abuse perpetrated by peers, and it may take a variety of forms:
- Verbal. Insults, name-calling, racial or ethnic slurs. These are experienced equally by boys and girls, and represent the most common form of bullying.
- Physical. Hitting, kicking, shoving or other direct bodily injury, as well as destruction
- Social. Spreading gossip and rumors (often sexually related), exclusion or outright isolation. These are more common forms of bullying among girls.
- Electronic. "Cyberbullying" on the Internet or through other electronic devices such as text messaging on cell phones.1