Teasing vs. bullying

Dorothy Espelage, Professor of Child Development, explains the three different ways that teasing differs from bullying and how to tell at what point teasing becomes bullying
Teasing vs Bullying - What is the Difference?
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Teasing vs. bullying

What is the difference between teasing and bullying is something that we want to talk to parents all the time about. What we do know is that teasing and bullying differs in three different ways. We know that teasing, once it is repeated, it becomes bullying. When, in fact, groups of kids go after victims or targets, in a repeated fashion and with great intention to hurt that child's feelings or to humiliate that child or physically threaten that child, then we know that it's crossed from teasing to bullying. Finally, the ultimate difference between teasing and bullying is, the victim feels that they cannot defend themselves. There is a power imbalance. This child may be smaller or may not be as popular, may not have friends to defend them. When we think about the difference between teasing and bullying, it is very clear, when it is repeated, when it intentionally seeks to embarrass and humiliate the other child, and when there is the inability of the victim to defend him or herself; then we call it bullying.

Dorothy Espelage, Professor of Child Development, explains the three different ways that teasing differs from bullying and how to tell at what point teasing becomes bullying


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Dorothy Espelage

Professor of Child Development

Dorothy L. Espelage, PhD, is a Professor of Child Development in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  She is a University Scholar and has fellow status in Division 17 (Counseling Psychology) of the American Psychological Association.  She earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Indiana University in 1997. She has conducted research on bullying, homophobic teasing, sexual harassment, and dating violence for the last 18 years. As a result, she presents regularly at regional, national, and international conferences and is author on over 90 professional publications.  She is co-editor of four published books including Bullying in North American Schools: A Social-Ecological Perspective on Prevention and Intervention and International Handbook of Bullying published by Routledge. She is Associate Editor of the Journal of Counseling Psychology. She has presented thousands of workshops and in-service training seminars for teachers, administrators, counselors, and social workers across the U.S.  Her research focuses on translating empirical findings into prevention and intervention programming.  She is currently funded by the CDC for a randomized clinical trial of a bullying prevention program in 36 middle schools. She authored a 2011 White House Brief on bullying among LGBTQ youth and attended the White House Conference in 2011. She is also funded by National Science Foundation to develop better methods to assess bullying among adolescents and CDC and NIJ are funding a longitudinal study of predictors of bullying and dating violence among adolescents. Dr. Espelage has appeared on many television news and talk shows, including The Today Show; CNN; CBS Evening News; The Oprah Winfrey Show, Anderson, Anderson 360 and has been quoted in the national print press, including Time Magazine, USA Today, People, Boston Globe, and the Wall Street Journal. Her dedicated team of undergraduate and graduate students are committed to the dissemination of the research through various mechanisms.

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