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Humour and empathy in children's social relationships Av-Gay, Hadas

Abstract

This study explored the link between use of humour and empathy among elementary school age children. Based on research demonstrating high levels of empathy in individuals who behave pro-socially and lower levels of empathy in individuals who behave antisocially, it was hypothesized that empathy (cognitive and affective) would be positively associated with positive uses of Humour, and negatively associated with negative uses of Humour. To this end, the Humour Styles Questionnaire (HSQ), developed for use with adults, was adapted for use with children and administered to 191 children (ages 8-13 from two elementary schools) along with a self-report measure of Cognitive and Affective Empathy. Factor analytic results verified a four factor solution for the HSQ, tapping use of Affiliative, Self -Enhancing, Self-Defeating and Aggressive Humour. Correlational analyses showed that the links between empathy and humour varied across types of humour and across boys and girls. Boys reporting higher levels of Cognitive Empathy were more likely to use humour in positive ways (Affiliative and Self-Enhancing Humour) and less likely to use humour to taunt others (Aggressive Humour) or to self-deprecate (Self-Defeating Humour). Boys who reported greater Affective Empathy were also less likely to use humour aggressively. For girls, greater Affective Empathy was associated with less use of Aggressive Humour and more use of Affiliative and Self-Enhancing Humour. Affiliative and Self-Enhancing Humour were also more likely among girls reporting greater Cognitive Empathy. Results of hierarchical regression analyses revealed that Cognitive Empathy contributed significantly to the variance in Self- Defeating, Affiliative and Self-Enhancing use of Humour, above and beyond sex effects. Affective Empathy was found to have a unique contribution, above and beyond sex effects, to the variance in Aggressive and Self-Defeating Humour.

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