Sense of humor and the severity of hassles among elementary school children

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

The study was designed to provide empirical data investigating children’s level of sense of humor with the severity of the hassles reported by the children. The sample included 82 children, 50 boys and 32 girls, ranging in age from 8-11 years, and representing the third, fourth, and fifth grades. Both male and female children participated in the study.

The Hassles Scale for Elementary School Children (HSESC), a 22-item checklist, was administered to the children to assess the frequency of selected important hassles and the severity of the hassles. Subjects indicated those items that occurred in the past week and rated the severity of all the hassles on a 5-point Likert type response scale. The Children's Self-Rating of Humor (CSRH) questionnaire, a 20-item questionnaire, was completed by the children to evaluate children's level of sense of humor. Subjects rated each question on a 5-point Likert type response scale. Subjects were administered the scales individually and in small groups. To provide a more in-depth understanding of children’s use of humor, a subsample of 12 children, six boys and six girls, randomly selected to represent the three grade levels and high and low humor scores participated in a follow-up interview.

The results of this study did not provide support for the contention that children with a high sense of humor would report hassles as being less upsetting as compared with children with a low sense of humor that would report hassles as being more upsetting. Further results seemed to indicate that the use of humor in stressful situations depended more on the child’s perception of the severity of the hassles rather than on the child's perceived level of sense of humor. The less upsetting the stressful situation was to the child the more likely the child would use humor and the more effective humor was in dealing with the stressful situation. More importantly, this study indicated that when humor was used it was not specific to the stressful situation but rather as a distraction, a more general coping mechanism.

A recommendation for future research should include the need for a better understanding of how children produce humor in stressful situations. Also, future research should focus on investigating the differences in the effects of different types of humor on stressful situations and the timing of using humor on whether it is an immediate or delayed response to a stressful situation. Future studies should focus on the cognitive processes of children’s humor when applied to stressful situations.