Cool bullies

School bullies have high self-esteem, says a UCLA study of Los Angeles schools. It’s their victims who are depressed, anxious and lonely.

Bullies, seven percent of the students, are psychologically strong.

“Bullies are popular and respected: they are considered the ‘cool’ kids,” said Jaana Juvonen, UCLA professor of psychology, and lead author of “Bullying Among Young Adolescents: The Strong, the Weak and the Troubled,” published in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics. “They don’t show signs of depression or social anxiety and they don’t feel lonely.

Victims make up about nine percent of students, researchers said. They’re the ones who could use an ego boost.

“Young teens who are victims of bullying are often emotionally distressed and socially marginalized,” said Juvonen, who also works as a consultant to Los Angeles elementary schools on developing anti-bullying programs. “Many of the victims are disengaged in school.”

About six percent of students are both bullies and victims. They’re the most troubled and the least popular group.

About Joanne


  1. Well, duh!

  2. Actually, while Bullies might have their fun in school, it was the geeks like myself that got revenge 20 years after high school. I used to get picked on by bullies in junior high and parts of high school. When I graduated, I went on to bigger and better things (while the bullies often got in trouble with law enforcement or dropping out of school).

    About 2 years ago, I ran into a former bully, he’s the guy who washes my car at the car wash (I recognized him, he didn’t know me), but it gave me a great deal of pleasure to watch him work on cleaning my ride, after all the **** I had to put up from him in school (grin).

  3. Honestly, I don’t think a simple paradigm of bullies/victims is applicable. I’ve never seen any bullying whatsoever, maybe I’m just privileged.

  4. That’s why when I have kids, they’ll know they’re not special. Every kid I know who has a decent self-esteem seems to be either spoiled, or a bully. Self-esteem should be earned, preferably in adulthood, when they’re old enough to know that their lives are precious, even if they don’t mean much in the scheme of things.

  5. PJ/Maryland says:

    That’s why when I have kids, they’ll know they’re not special. Every kid I know who has a decent self-esteem seems to be either spoiled, or a bully.

    That’s seems pretty sad, Shawn. It ought to be possible to give your (hypothetical) kids self-esteem, at least in the sense of a secure foundation, without turning them into bullies or spoiled brats.

  6. damaged justice says:

    Perhaps Shawn would like to read Nathaniel Branden’s “The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem”, specifically the chapter “Nurturing a Child’s Self-Esteem”, and see if he disagrees with these statements:

    “Parents perpetrate child abuse when they:

    Convey that the child is not ‘enough.’

    Chastise the child for expressing ‘unacceptable’ feelings.

    Ridicule or humiliate the child.

    Convey that the child’s thoughts or feelings have no value or importance.

    Attempt to control the child by shame or guilt.

    Overprotect the child and consequently obstruct normal learning and increasing self-reliance.

    Underprotect the child and consequently obstruct normal ego development.

    Raise a child with no rules at all, and thus no supporting structure; or else rules that are contradictory, bewildering, undiscussable, and
    oppressive — in either case inhibiting normal growth.

    Deny a child’s perception of reality and implicitly encourage the child to doubt his or her mind.

    Terrorize a child with physical violence or the threat of it, thus instilling acute fear as an enduring characteristic, at the child’s core.

    Treat a child as a sexual object.

    Teach that the child is bad, unworthy, or sinful by nature.”

  7. Kris Hasson-Jones says:

    The bullies my kids dealt with fall into the “secure, confident” category–often because their parents (one or both) were also bullies. It was a communication style that was passed on and encouraged by the parents.

  8. The bully my child dealt with was a miserable child with wretched self-esteem, no friends, and a horrible home life. After the school stopped the physical bullying, and my husband and I counseled our child no dealing with the psychological bullying, this girl, another girl, and my kid became fast friends. I never in a million years thought it would happen. They persisted in treating her like a human being and set limits on the behavior they would tolerate and I guess ultimately she decided it was better to put her energy toward getting along. But she definitely was never the popular, confident child the article describes.

    From the article: “Each student provides confidential reports on which classmates bully others and which are victims of bullying. They also report about their own feelings of depression, anxiety and loneliness.” I’m always suspicious of surveys that depend on self-reported data, especially from kids. They did ask teachers about behavior.

  9. Ultimately, they have to ask the kids, because the kids are the ones who know about the bullying. Teachers see some of it, but most of it goes on when we’re not around.

  10. Well, sure, Rita. But if they’d asked Kim about her life at the time she was hitting and kicking my daughter, she’d have said she was on top of the world.

  11. Personally I feel that this was spot on. The bullies that I dealt with were the popular kids. They had enormous amounts of self esteem. The best revenge, however, is living well. I enjoyed my 10 year reunion. The girl who made my life miserable never went to college, got pregnant, got married and got fat and lives in a trailor. There is justice in this world after all.

  12. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘is living well. I enjoyed my 10 year reunion. The girl who made my life miserable never went to college, got pregnant, got married and got fat and lives in a trailor. There is justice in this world after all. ‘

    Being a condescending creep who revels in the misfortune of others is living well?

  13. Richard Cook says:

    Tanner come down off your high holy mountain. Yes it feels good and I did get quite a bit of satisfaction when I saw the guy who bullied me still trying to make bank off of his high school reputation. And look in the mirror before you call someone a creep. Your just so, oh above it all. Jeez.

  14. Jack Tanner says:

    Sorry Richard. Losers who think they’re better than other people because they think they’re more successful than other people are still losers. Loser.

  15. Jack,
    As the great philosopher Conan the Barbarian, as played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, said that which is best in life is “To crush your enemies, see them drivem before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!”

    I am with Shelly on this one.

  16. ***Julie*** says:

    ….creep…high holy mountain…loser…

    Do we wonder where our kids get it from? Come on. We all have points to make, and everyone has a right to their own opinion. Why do we have to resort to name calling?

    Yes, it does feel good to see those who teased you get some back, but that doesn’t mean that they voiced it to that person — they voiced it here, they are not creeps.

    Anyhow…my post:

    I work in a high school, and the kids there all bully eachother. The popular kids bully the not so popular kids. Even the not so popular kids bully the Special Ed kids, and Special Ed kids bully with-in the Special Ed “social structure”. Sad to say, but it is true.

  17. Richard Cook says:


    In my world its called confidence. Those are the people who generally accomplish more. Moron.

  18. Julie:

    It goes way beyond “teased”. More like Life altering rage. Its like comparing a pin prick to a gunshot wound. Dreading to come to school every fricking day because of what was going to happen is not a fun thing.

  19. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘In my world its called confidence. ‘

    Gloating that you somehow define yourself as more successful than someone else is confidence? Reveling that someone is ‘fat’ and ‘lives in a trailor’ which the person can’t even spell right is ‘living well’?

    ‘mean that they voiced it to that person — they voiced it here, they are not creeps.’

    That they were too cowardly to voice it to the person is beyond creepy, it’s perverse.

    To define your own self worth based on the failure of others because that person picked on you in high school is pathetic.

    Only in your own little minds is anyone ‘drivem before you’. If you really think you’re in any way superior to anyone why not at least show a little pride in yourself and pretend you’re big enough to be magnanimous and forgiving. I’m making the big ‘L’ sign with the thumb and fore finger right in front of you.

  20. ***Julie*** says:

    I understand the difference between “teasing” and “bullying”. I work with Sp. Ed. Kids, some who come into the room once or twice a week with their stomach in knots from fear of the “regular ed” classrooms, begging to go home, and confessing that if they have to go back out there they will cut themselves. (And have in the past.) I understand too well what they mean by bullying, and I work with students to help them understand their self-worth – not the pettiness of those picking on them. School is tough, and so is growing up. I work with these kids, try to give them the compassion they need, sometimes crave, and make sure that the counseling staff helps them through the problems. What we really need is some tougher reprecussions for the bullies. the “teachable moments” that the article mentions will work only if the students will listen — most bullies will not listen.

  21. jeff wright says:

    Jack Tanner: I think you’re overreacting a bit—perhaps even to the point of bullying. Feeling vindicated in one’s life choices does not necessarily equate to a sense of superiority. It may, however, give one a warm, fuzzy feeling. And what’s wrong with that?

  22. The Christmas Spirit oozeth over. And you people want to be in charge of the schools?

  23. Go Rita.

    But, seriously, as far as I know all the work done by serious head shrinkers and social scientists shows that bullies and thugs are not suffering from low self anything. This is old news. And has been since the first time I read it… years and years ago.

    It’s not hard to figure out that it’s easier to get away with bad behavior if you’ve convinced the teachers and authority figures that you’re a “good kid.” People with low self worth tend to be afraid of other people.

  24. Richard Cook says:

    Rita C.

    I certainly did not say anything about being in charge of anything nor do I want to be.

  25. Well, they have good self-esteem because they are at the top of the social hierarchy in a high school. There’s an essay online somewhere that influenced some of my observations and thinking about this subject… by Paul Graham maybe? But the idea is that the social skills required to rise to the top in a high school are different than those required to rise to the top in the middleclass working world, where intelligence translates more directly into earning power. In high school, intelligence doesn’t correlate to anything useful (good grades and knowledge are very abstract concepts that pan out only in the very long term).

    That said, bullying can be reduced (probably not eliminated) through good school culture. For example, the self-contained special ed. kids at my school are almost never bullied or teased — a kid who tried that would be ostracized very quickly. Other bullying and fighting does go on, though.

  26. Mark Odell says:

    Jack Tanner wrote: Being a condescending creep who revels in the misfortune of others is living well?

    No, Jack — being (at long last) a rationally-selfish, competent adult of some value who revels (briefly but hugely) in the (richly-deserved) misfortune of (a few self-selected) others is living well.

    Karma: You don’t have to get even; other people will do it for you.

    To define your own self worth based on the failure of others because that person picked on you in high school is pathetic.

    Since no one here is doing that, so much for pathos.

    Rita C. wrote: That said, bullying can be reduced (probably not eliminated) through good school culture.

    Oh, I can do better than that.

  27. Jack Tanner: It’s human to feel emotions, even if those emotions aren’t considered “nice” in regards to others. Teasing, tormenting, etc. lasts forever in the lives of those that have had to go through it. Why shouldn’t she feel at least a little contentment in witnessing someone who HURT her terribly, living a life of shit? No human being has good will and cheer all the time, and no human being can be expected to have only kind thoughts about people, especially those who have hurt them. Reality check?

  28. Social outcastism will not be able to be stopped unless we attack the real root of the problem. Parents teach their kids at an older age about making choices because they think that the kids won’t understand the questions until they are older. However, kids are smarter than anyone these days (one kid made a computer virus that nearly wiped out EVERY computer) and they need the skills to make good decisions about themselves and learn to live with the consequences. Also, I believe bullies need to not get kicked in the pants, but I believe that they need to sit down and tell the kid they are bullying that the only reason they are doing it is just out of fun. And to laugh about it so that they won’t get picked on. The biggest killer of popularity= too serious man… THAT’S WHY I WASN’T POPULAR IN HIGHSCHOOL! but anyway if we do these simple things then maybe our kids will be alright, alright?

  29. Hey, I was just reading everyones comments. Just curious, isn’t this forum about bullying? Since it is, then why are you two (jack and richard) calling eachother names? “moron, creep, Loser” This is how kids learn.

    Bullying is also a verbal abuse aswell as a physical abuse. Kids around me are always getting picked on. Just a few min ago a child was punching another child because the kid had his tennis ball. I asked him if he would like to go to the office. He said he didn’t care.

    Just goes to show how much self esteem that bullies have. Also it seems like there ego’s get a friggin boost when they pick on others.

    No one can stop bullying, but the bystanders can always help the victims out. Reaserch shows that the bully will stop in 10 seconds or less, 57% of the time. That’s pretty good man. And if it doesn’t…well… they can always run there asses out of there!

  30. Kiki u do,t know what the hell u are talking about u idiot bullies are sooooo cool

  31. I make my point. Take gohan for example, He must be a bully. Since he thinks that they are cool. He also used bad language. People who don’t have anything intellegent to say, curse/cuss back at others.

    Gohan I have just one thing to say to you. Wait.. nevermind. Your not worth my time. Try and get some help okay, kid?

  32. if u are going to come back with some lame ass words that u think are great then u can kiss my ass. Because u don’t have any experiance with bullies. I have had friends who liked to billy people for stuff they want and beleive if your with bullies u are considerd cool trust my on that kiki

  33. Excuse me, Gohan. But I must say that you must be the only person on this forum that actually think bullies are ‘COOL’. Give me a friggin break.

    Are you okay? Or are you a bully yourself. Is your self esteem low? Or is it much to high for you to handle?

    I think you need a reality check. Bullies are NOT cool. They torment others for their own selfish reasons.

    You said you hung out with bullies. You said they bullied others for “stuff they want.” Does that mean like objects? Or money?

    I really think you should get some councelling kind. And tell them your story. Because what your saying seems a bit mad if you really think about it.

    Go and get some rest man, and come back when you have grown up.

  34. I,m a 41 year old construction worker and I see bullies everywhere and its just a part of life. I’ve seen them at work, in bars or just some young toughs at the mall or in the high school parking lot. I will admit though that I have more respect for these men than some whining, limp wristed pussy any day.

  35. This is for gohan,

    You think that bullies are cool? You much be on drugs or something. How old are you, 10? Let me tell you how cool my old highschool bullies are. First of all, I own my own company and make lots of cash. Also, I get to do a lot of travelling with my children, who are straight A students. My former bullies on the other hand, are working menial jobs and getting paid minimum wage for their hard work. They’re also hanging out in bars and in and out of jail. Yes, my bullies tormented me mercifully in high school, but I’m better off now than they are. And I can’t help but chuckle every time I see them. Living well is the best revenge. Are bullies so cool after all?

  36. And also, I’m thinking very seriously of going to my 20 high school reunion because I know that my former bullies will be there. Their mouths will drop when they see how successful I have became. And I will be sure to let them know it. Then maybe for dessert, I’ll drop little hints about how much more successful I am than they are. This is going to be so much fun!!!

  37. OMG! I figured gohan would have responded to me by now. Oh well, only this only proves what a wuss he really is. He just proved that bullies really are wusses in disquise.

    George, so what you’re saying is that being victimized by bullies back in school makes me a pussy? Sorry babe, gotta disagree with you on that. On the contrary, I was never a pussy as I always believed in the value of hard work. I worked during school in order to have what I wanted. My bullies never worked and most if them still can’t hold a job 4 very long to this day. I have nice bank while most of my bullies are broke-assed lowlifes who don’t even have a bank acct. Now who’s the pussy?