In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Children's Humor

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Humor Textbooks
  • Humor Journals
  • Professional Organizations
  • Historical Perspectives on General Humor
  • Historical Perspectives on Children’s Humor
  • Humor and Prenatal Development
  • Humor and Disability
  • Humor and Gender
  • Humor and Race
  • Humor in Classrooms—Books for Educators
  • Humor in Classrooms—Articles for Educators
  • Humor and Children—Parental Supports

Childhood Studies Children's Humor
Holly Hoffman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0186


A review of literature yields the statement that a sense of humor is an elaborate and multifaceted component of individual personalities. The specific details of humor scope and implications have been studied and debated for years. Researchers have put forth much effort to determine definitions, theories, benefits, and challenges of humor as it relates to children and adults. Humor research in the area of psychology began in 1887. Since that time, thousands of contributions have been published to address the variety of theories contributing to the development of humor in children such as psychoanalytic, social interaction, and cognitive: incongruity-resolution theories. In addition, significant contributions have been dedicated to individual and group differences in humor based on age, gender, race, and disability. Humor in the educational setting for students, in the workplace for adults, and in relationships during all stages of life have also received noteworthy attention in the research. This humor research review consists of a wide range of examples to address the multifaceted and complex topic of humor scholarship, particularly children’s humor.

General Overviews

The need for documents to organize and analyze the empirical studies related to general humor development, appreciation, and utilization began receiving attention in the early 1970s. As a result, Goldstein and McGhee 1972 provides a strong foundation for this practice. Goldstein and McGhee 1983a and Goldstein and McGhee 1983b are two volumes of research review to include humor studies in the fields of sociology, linguistics, anthropology, in addition to psychology. The focus of this volume is theoretical issues that underlie humor and laughter. The second volume includes studies that centered on the impacts and consequences of the use of humor. Ruch 1998 provides a holistic approach to the use of humor and the impact on relationships, and Roeckelein 2002 reviews and summarizes humor studies from 1970 to 2001. The more recent contributions of Raskin 2008 and Attardo 2014 address the broad range of interdisciplinary fields of study included in important research related to humor. Although many of the overview documents related to general humor study are dated, they create a strong timeline of the empirical contributions focused on humor between 1900 and 2014.

  • Attardo, Salvatore, ed. Encyclopedia of Humor Studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2014.

    The most recent collection of over three hundred studies, this contribution is more internationally focused than other resources. Over two hundred authors contribute insights regarding the historical and current state of humor study, including theory, cause, definition, factors, benefits, and challenges of humor development and utilization. Organized in an alphabetical subject manner with recommended further readings for each section, it is clearly outlined and user friendly.

  • Goldstein, Jeffrey H., and Paul E. McGhee. The Psychology of Humor: Theoretical Perspectives and Empirical Issues. New York: Academic Press, 1972.

    This detailed account of humor study history, theoretical frameworks, and empirical examples of humor contributions is a thorough collection of humor impacting both children and adults. The annotated bibliography section list focuses on the methodology of empirical studies between 1950 and 1971 as well as almost four hundred published papers addressing the study of humor.

  • Goldstein, Jeffrey H., and Paul E. McGhee, eds. Handbook of Humor Research. Vol. 1, Basic Issues. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1983a.

    Examples of humor study as it relates to human behavior are collected and summarized in this source. The selections have more of a social perspective as compared to other resources, as noted by the humor and laughter in social interaction, sociological approaches, and attention to disparagement to humor contributions. The fields of linguistics, education, medicine, cognitive study, and anthropology are included as well.

  • Goldstein, Jeffrey H., and Paul E. McGhee, eds. Handbook of Humor Research. Vol. 2, Applied Studies. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1983b.

    As a partner to Volume 1, this resource outlines the specific studies functioning to impact the psychological and social components of daily life. Focusing less on theory and more on the uses of humor, chapters vary from discussing specific techniques to utilize in educational and medical settings as well as particular methods used in comedy distributed through mass media venues. Both positives and negatives of humor are analyzed.

  • Raskin, Victor. The Primer of Humor Research. Boston: de Gruyter, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110198492

    This collection of perspectives from an interdisciplinary assortment of authors centers on humor study in the fields of psychology, linguistics, literature, anthropology, religion, philosophy, history, health, communication, and education. The definition of humor study and benefits as related to each field of study are highlighted.

  • Roeckelein, Jon E. The Psychology of Humor: A Reference Guide and Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2002.

    This guide addresses a detailed account of the growth in general humor research since the early 1900s. It also features an overview of the terminology utilized in humor study, along with the foundations of humor research, theories, functions, and scientific contributions of humor study. The annotated bibliography section lists 380 empirical studies from 1970 to 2001, highlighting significant contributions of humor study in the field of psychology.

  • Ruch, Willibald, ed. The Sense of Humor: Explorations of a Personality Characteristic. Boston: de Gruyter, 1998.

    As Ruch states, this resource sheds new light on old concepts. Twenty-three different authors contribute to this work, providing a holistic approach. The history of humor research is summarized, including current approaches to humor study, differences in humor among groups such as gender, intra-individual differences in humor, and causes for these differences. Bergen details the development of humor and appreciation in children, highlighting case study results and future study directions.

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