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Publication #FAR1746

Parents’ Role in Bullying Behavior1

Carol Church2

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We’ve heard a lot recently about bullying and the devastating effects it can have on children and teens. For parents of victims, this experience can be deeply upsetting. But bullies’ parents struggle as well. While some parents may not know that their child is bullying, many report being aware of this behavior.

What do we know about the causes of bullying? Past studies have linked it to “depression, [...] substance use, below-average academic achievement, [...] child abuse and domestic violence, and corporal punishment,” (Shetgiri, Lin, & Flores, 2012, para. 2) among other factors. Now two large new surveys of American parents lend some additional insight.

Close to 100,000 parents of children and teens between the ages of 10 and 17 were asked if their sons and daughters bullied, and how often. The parents then answered other questions about the family and the child (Shetgiri, Lin, & Flores, 2012).

Children whose parents often felt angry with them or who said that their child bothered them a lot were more likely to bully. So were children with emotional and behavioral problems and those whose mothers reported being in poor mental health. Meanwhile, children whose parents felt they communicated well with their child were less likely to bully, as were children whose parents had met all or most of their child’s friends.

These interesting findings from these inclusive and large surveys suggest that parents have an important role to play in stopping bullying. Even the simple step of getting to know all your child’s friends may help prevent this damaging problem.

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Shetgiri, R., Lin, H., & Flores, G. (2012). Trends in risk and protective factors for child bullying perpetration in the United States. Child Psychiatry and Human Development. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s10578-012-0312-3



This document is FAR1746, one of a series of the Department of Family Youth and Community Sciences, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original broadcast date July 8, 2012, as program 1970. Published on EDIS April 2013. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Carol Church, writer, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.