Bullying and attachment style

Bullying and attachment style

Bullying in schools has been one of the major concerns globally. A report released by the US Department of Education revealed that 32% of students between 12 and 18 years had experienced bullying in schools. 24% of them felt unsafe. Schools have become breeding grounds for bullies. Children who experience bullying can be categorized into three categories bullies, victims, and bully-victims. Bully- victims are those who have been bullied and they are bullies too.

The behavior of bullying can be traced back to the upbringing of a child.  According to attachment theory, children are emotionally and physically attached to one primary caregiver during child development. If there is disengagement between the child and the caregiver during growth, there are higher chances of the child ending up bullying others or being bullied.

Males with an anxious paternal relationship tend to be bullies. Females with an avoidant relationship with their mothers and anxious relationship with their fathers tend to be more physically aggressive. There are two types of aggression, physical and relational aggression. Physical aggression includes violence such as hitting and pushing. Relational aggression entails behaviors such as threatening to quit a friendship or spreading rumors. Boys are more physically aggressive while girls are more relationally aggressive.

Parental involvement and support affect the behavior of children. Children expect to be treated the way their caregivers did, they expect people to react to their actions just like their caregivers. Bullies have insecure relationships with their caregivers. This insecure attachment makes them develop aggressive and delinquent behavior. Victims have a secure attachment with their primary caregivers during childhood.

Bullies like and have a positive attitude towards aggression. They have the lowest maternal attachment. In Western schools, the level of aggression has increased. 50% of students revealed to either have been bullying others or are being bullied.  Victimization of males is more related to overprotection by their mothers while that of females is associated with mothers’ rejection.

Although there is scarce literature highlighting the relationship between bullying and attachment styles, the upbringing of a child affects their future behavior. Parental support and involvement play a critical role in child development. Females with avoidant relationships with their mothers tend to be more aggressive, while males with anxious relationships with their fathers tend to be more aggressive. Males that are overprotected by their mothers have higher chances of being victimized.


Williams, Kylie. “Bullying behaviors and attachment styles.” (2011).

Kokkinos, Constantinos M. “Bullying and victimization in early adolescence: Associations with attachment style and perceived parenting.” Journal of School Violence 12.2 (2013): 174-192.

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