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Why Do Teens Get Bullied?

teenage girl being bullied

The defines a bully as “one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable.” Adolescence is a difficult developmental stage. It is a time when young people go through intense maturation and deep self-discovery. Every teenager is different and will be faced with unique experiences and lessons during adolescence. Teenagers are notorious for testing limits, experimentation and pushing boundaries. The most frequently relied upon assumptions regarding an individual that bullies others is that the young person may lack self-esteem, impulse control, have anger management issues, seek revenge, and/ or appear as a loner. While those may be accurate in some cases, there are many additional reasons that could contribute to an adolescent bullying others. 

Teenage Brains

It is helpful to have a broad understanding of the typically developing teenage brain, when attempting to understand bullying behaviors. Teenage brains are not yet fully developed. The area that is responsible for rational thought, executive planning, and impulse control is called the prefrontal cortex, which is not fully formed until age twenty-five, at the earliest. Therefore, teenagers innately rely on their amygdala for navigating issues that would otherwise be deciphered via the prefrontal cortex. The amygdala is directly associated with emotions, impulses, aggression, and instinctive behavior. Hence, teens initially react to most external stimuli from an emotional (and non rational) standpoint. Of course the brain development of a young person could contribute to bullying behavior.

Potential Reasons For Bullying

There is no single reason behind why young people are bullied nor is the underlying reason behind what precipitates a teen to bully others known. There are some possible reasons as to why some teenagers may bully others, which can include, but are not limited to any combination of the following:

  • Social status: in efforts to increase one’s popularity, a teen could bully those less popular.
  • Prejudices: teenagers may bully others for being different.
  • Revenge: teenagers that have been the target of bullying may look to retaliate by bullying their aggressor directly and/ or bullying someone weaker or more vulnerable. 
  • Boredom: teenagers that are bored could resort to bullying to increase the drama and excitement in their own lives. 
  • Control: teenagers that seek power and control are prone to bullying, and they will likely only want to interact with others on their own terms. 

Unfortunately, bullying is highly common. There are a myriad of nuanced and specific reasons that directly correlate to each bullying experience. The effects of being exposed to bullying can be immense, depending on the teen. It is important to bear in mind that regardless of which side of the bullying a young person may find him or herself (the aggressor or the victim), both teens are in need of help and support. 

For Information and Support 

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at or through our contact form.

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