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Humor styles, peer relationships, and bullying in middle childhood

by Dana N. Klein, Nicholas A. Kuiper
Humor ()
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Contemporary approaches to understanding humor have developed models that underscore the importance of both adaptive and maladaptive humor styles. The expression of these humor styles can then impact either posi- tively or negatively on the self or others. One such model, as recently pro- posed by Rod Martin and his colleagues, outlines four distinct humor styles; namely self-enhancing, a‰liative, self-defeating, and aggressive humor. Several studies with both adults and older adolescents provide initial empir- ical support for this model, including the adaptive aspects of self-enhancing and a‰liative humor, as well as the maladaptive components of self- defeating and aggressive humor. However, these four humor styles have yet to be considered with respect to children. As such, the present paper considers how these di¤erent humor styles may bear on peer relationships and bullying during middle childhood (ages 6–12). In our examination, we describe how adaptive and maladaptive humor styles may either help or hin- der the child’s status within a peer group. Special emphasis is directed to- wards potential relationships between specific humor styles and either peer acceptance or victimization, as well as both direct and indirect forms of bul- lying. We conclude by describing several potential areas of research that may prove beneficial in furthering our understanding of humor and social relationship issues in middle childhood.

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