“Clearly, social gain is at the root of 95 percent of bullying,” Mayer says. So the idea that the bully is “on top” is “almost nonsense,” he says. Why? “If they were at the top, they wouldn’t be as motivated toward bullying behavior.”
Both Mayer and Williams agree that bullying is most often motivated by a desire for social power. “Developmentally speaking, social standing is huge for children and youth,” Williams says. “In fact, by the time they reach adolescence, it can have more influence than, say, the role of a parent. Bullying controls and manipulates the social order; and this is exactly what the bully seeks to accomplish.” Often, this means the bully is a social climber, seeking to increase his or her status. But when a child does seem to be popular, Williams warns, their social status may shield them from consequences — both from other kids and adults. “It lends itself to a type of social Darwinism thinking,” he says.
Commonly, Mayer says, kids who bully are often victims of abuse themselves or are going through difficult problems at home. They may even have cognitive disorders that impair their impulse control. “Something is wrong with that kid in that time of their life,” Mayer says. It doesn’t mean all bullies will turn into criminals, he says, but at that time they are trying to wield power in an inappropriate way. The kid who bullies feels a lack of control in his or her own life.
Often issues at home, such as divorce, abuse, or violence, leave children feeling helpless. Kids who bully don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with that powerlessness. So what do they do? Get power the only way they can. Or as Williams puts it: “Hurt people hurt people.” School administrators who understand this can address bullying more effectively by counseling bullies as well as victims.
Source: Great Kids!