The adult Humor Styles Questionnaire (HSQ) assumes that humor can be both adaptive (“self-enhancing” and “affiliative”) and maladaptive (“aggressive” and “self-defeating”). The aim of the research was to develop a reliable and valid scale to assess adaptive and maladaptive humor in children – an adaptation of the adult HSQ. Over two studies, 1187 UK school children aged 9–15 years completed the 24-item adapted child HSQ. In the second study the children completed the questionnaire on two occasions, one week apart, and also measures of psychosocial adjustment. For children aged 11 years and upwards there was a clear four factor structure to the questionnaire with all sub-scales showing acceptable levels of internal and test re-test reliability. As predicted, affiliative humor and self-defeating humor were associated with all four measures of psychosocial adjustment. Aggressive humor was associated with lower anxiety and higher self-perceived social competence for boys, and with lower global self-worth and higher depression for girls. Longitudinal research is needed to disentangle the causal pathways and examine further the links between children's humor styles and their social competence.
About the authors
Dr Claire Fox is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Keele University, UK. Dr Fox's key area of expertise is social development in childhood and adolescence. She recently led an ESRC-funded research project on children's humor styles and the problem of bullying in schools.
Dr Sarah Dean is a Lecturer in Psychology at Staffordshire University UK. As a Research Associate at Keele University in 2009–2010, she was involved in the second study to develop the Child HSQ. Dr Dean's primary research interest is in the effects of written emotional expression on adolescents.
Kerry Lyford teaches Psychology and Sociology to A-level students at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Derbyshire (UK). She graduated with a first class honours degree in Psychology and Criminology at Keele University in 2010. In 2009, supported by an award from the British Psychological Society, she worked with Dr Fox on the first study to develop the Child HSQ.
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