Humor Styles and Empathy in Junior-School Children


  • Caitlin Charlotte Halfpenny
  • Lucy Amelia James


Humor is a complex phenomenon. For one individual a joke may be perceived as comical, yet for another, the same joke may be deemed completely inappropriate. The appropriate use of humor is perhaps dependent on how a humorist relates to, understands and can empathize with their audience. Thus, the present research aimed to determine whether empathy is related to junior-school children’s use of different humor styles. It has been proposed that four styles of humor exist, two of which are thought to be adaptive (affiliative and self-enhancing) and two of which are thought to be maladaptive (aggressive and self-defeating). However, research exploring the role of humor styles in younger children’s development has been limited. To investigate this the Humor Styles Questionnaire for young children (HSQ-Y) and the Thinking and Feeling Questionnaire were administered to 214 UK children aged 9-11 years old. Correlational analyses revealed that self-enhancing humor is associated with cognitive empathy, affective empathy and sympathy, affiliative humor is positively associated with cognitive empathy specifically and aggressive humor is negatively associated with affective empathy and sympathy. Possible explanations for these associations are explored, with a consideration of the direction for future research in this predominantly unexplored field of study.