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Differences between peer conflict and bullying

Normal Peer Conflict

  • Peers have equal power or are friends with each other.
  • Conflict happens occasionally or rarely.
  • May be accidental.
  • May not be serious; no threat of harm.
  • Equal emotional reaction from both peers.
  • Not seeking power or attention and not trying to gain something.
  • General remorse – will want to take responsibility.
  • Effort on both sides to solve the problem.


  • Imbalance of power between peers; not friends.
  • Repeated negative actions that happens often.
  • Purposefully done.
  • Serious with threat of physical or emotional harm.
  • Strong emotional reaction from victim and little or no emotional reaction from bully.
  • Seeking power, control or material things.
  • No remorse – bully blames victim; no guilt from bully.
  • No effort to solve the problem.

*Adapted from Bully-Proofing Your School, 2004