There are two main principle types of bullying: physical and psychological. Both may be carried out in overt or covert ways and may involve indiscriminate or discriminatory forms of behavior.
Physical bullying is generally described as overt because it usually involves open attacks on a victim that can become worse if others are watching. Extreme physical bullying may take many forms, including beating, strangling, shooting, or using other weapons or objects to cause some harm. There are many different kinds of activities that students engage in to enforce a power relationship in which victims are overwhelmed and feel helpless.
Physical bullying may also be covert. This kind of bullying takes place in the absence of adults and may involve actions such as locking a victim in a school locker. Indiscriminate forms of physical bullying do not identify the victim on the basis of an enduring prejudice such as race, sex, gender, or ability but may be triggered on a moment of a spontaneous sense of annoyance or discomfort. A victim’s look or body language, if misinterpreted as hostile, may trigger bullying.
Children with special needs are highly susceptible to physical bullying because they may have challenges with speech or mobility which immediately places them in a position to be vulnerable.
Psychological bullying most times involves causing some type of mental anguish to cause their targets to fear for their physical safety or breaking down self-esteem and confidence. This is an integral part of cyberbullying. At least three or more of the following characteristics of bullying are always present: the harassment is unwanted and uninvited, it is relentless, and the victim is singled out for the abuse. Verbal psychological bullying is “overt” in that joking and insulting can be heard or read by others.
Covert or nonverbal psychological bullying is intended to exclude and isolate by stalking and ostracizing the victim. It is the most difficult form of bullying for victims to substantiate because teachers cannot see it or prove that it has actually occurred.