"The simple reason is it shows that they have power over others," agreed Marlene Snyder, Development Director for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in the United States, based in Clemson, S.C. "The reason that they do it repeatedly is that they are getting away with it. Nobody is calling them on their bad behavior. When they aren't called on it they think, 'Well, it must be O.K.'"
This power brings popularity and high social status for bullies, Bradshaw said. "But they're also perceived as disliked."
Evidence has shown that bullies often suffer from social and emotional problems, she added. At the same time, "one of the big myths is that bullies bully because they feel bad about themselves," Snyder said. "The research consistently shows that they have average or above average self-esteem."
"For the longest time we thought for sure that these ringleader bullies were socially rejected, that there was no way that you could establish dominance and control by humiliating other kids or tormenting them," said bullying expert Dorothy Espelage, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "But now we've shown that there is a peer socialization process -- that bullies tend to have more friends."