Bullying among children takes many forms: beatings, verbal abuse, teasing, damage to property, exclusion from the group (a special form of torture to those who value peer approval). The victims have few common characteristics, but tend to be those children who, in some way, do not fit in with the group's image of itself. They are often more anxious, insecure, and lacking in social skills; this makes them ideal targets because they do not fight back when attacked. Students may avoid school by skipping classes or faking illness rather than face bullies. Some victims commit suicide. Teachers are often powerless to intervene, either because they do not know what is going on, or because they fear the victim will suffer more if the bullies are chastised.
Bullies have learned that being aggressive and physically coercive is a way to increase their status and self-esteem. Bullies place a high value on being in control and dominating others. Children who are bullies are likely to grow up to be juvenile delinquents and adult criminals, unless they learn new ways of thinking and behaving.
In the first six months of 1985, over 250 cases of bullying involving violence or intimidation were reported in Japan; two of them ended in the victims' suicides. One of the many recent deaths was a boy who spoke standard Japanese instead of the local dialect. One young woman set her arm on fire in protest at her school's refusal to pay attention to how she and others were being bullied. In 1993, Japan's Health and Welfare Ministry began hiring of 14,000 adult "advisors" to keep closer contact with schoolchildren facing problems, including bullying.
In the UK in 1984 a survey of 4,000 children indicated that more than two thirds had been bullied at some time and 38% were being regularly bullied. Another survey in the UK indicated that 18% of secondary children and 17% of middle-school children claimed to have been bullied; 8% said it happened once a week, and 5.5% said it happened several times per week. More than half make no attempt to report it to anybody, making it easy for teachers to assume that very little occurs. Another survey suggests that 70% of children are bullied at some time; one in 7 are chronically and severely bullied.
An American researcher says that approximately 10% of all children attending school are afraid through much of the day. A Norwegian study of thousands of school boys showed that 65% of the boys identified as bullies at the age of 7 had felony charges by 24. They achieved less academically, socially, economically and professionally than their non-bullying peers of comparable intelligence. They had more arrests for felonies and more convictions for serious crimes, were more abusive toward their spouses and more likely to have highly aggressive children.