Skip to content

Peer Conflict vs Bullying

There is a difference between peer conflict and bullying. I believe that it’s important for both kids and adults to understand what the difference is because peer conflict (or conflict amongst friends) is much less serious than bullying. However, bullying is a word that is overused too often and is used to represent situations which are many times not bullying.

It’s important that we use the word bullying when it is actually happening so that we can stop it and help those who are being bullied.


The differences are laid out below:

Peer Conflict

  • Play/hang out together
  • Equal age/size/social status
  • Are equally upset
  • Both interested in the outcome
  • Will be able to work things out


  • Power imbalance- due to age, size, social status
  • Intent to be mean and is not accidental
  • Repeated over time and gets worse with repetition
  • Real or implied threat that the behaviour will not stop and will get worse

However, I’ve come up with an even simpler way to distinguish between peer conflict and bullying:

If they are your friends, it’s not bullying. If it’s bullying, they are not your friends.

Let’s stop being the boy who called wolf and realize that bullying can be a powerful word and will help those who need help to get it – but only if we use it in the right circumstances.