The model of bullying as a developmental process considers the nature of the problem in relation to stages of child development, whereby direct bullying scenarios between a bully and victim generally involve younger age groups, and relational bullying involving a social process occurs more often with older students (such as a group excluding or ignoring an individual).
Approaches that acknowledge the developmental process involved in bullying include teacher training to ensure staff are more aware and sensitive toward subtle forms of bullying, and this is especially important during the initial secondary school years. In exploring the impact of age on ability to participate in and understand complex bullying scenarios, cognitive development has been considered as influential in child perception of bullying.
Some students might not even be aware that bullying is taking place as the behavior may fall outside their understanding of what constitutes bullying. The suggestion that bullying becomes more sophisticated and subtle as the
perpetrator develops cognitive abilities also explains the move toward skilled social manipulation involved in covert relational bullying.