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Family and Child Development > FCD Blog > Posts > Bullying VS Conflict: What's the Difference

It is normal for people to disagree, have conflicting viewpoints, and become angry with one another for their actions.  For example, siblings often disagree and may engage in rough-housing, children may find it difficult to get along with certain classmates, even adult strangers can find themselves in conflict with one another in traffic, waiting in lines, and over public policy issues.  Questions parents often ask are, “Where do we draw the line?  What is a normal amount of conflict for my child to experience? How do I know if they are being bullied?”

An important distinction to make between bullying and normal conflict is the intent behind the action.  Is the intent of the conflict to share viewpoints or air frustration, or is it to directly harm someone?   Additionally, when someone is bullying another person there is usually an imbalance of power, which can be anything from age, size, popularity, or status.  When this difference in power is used to target a specific group or individual, the bullying behavior that results is aggressive, negative, and unwanted.  It is possible for bullying to occur in a single instance, but it usually happens in a pattern of behavior repeated over time.  This means that one negative comment between people, while unpleasant, is most likely not bullying.   However, if these comments persist or become more hurtful, it could be considered bullying.  Knowing the difference between bullying and normal conflict can help you understand how to respond, whether in your own life, or for your child.  If you would like to know more on this topic, please visit: http://www.aces.edu/family-health/families-children/bullying/basics/what.php 

Written by Kaitlyn McHugh (HDFS Gradute Student) 



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