Reciprocity between humour and peer victimization

Fox, Claire and Hunter, Simon C. and Jones, Sian (2013) Reciprocity between humour and peer victimization. In: 16th European Conference on Developmental Psychology, 2013-09-03 - 2013-09-07, University of Lausanne.

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Peer-victimization is a serious social difficulty for many young people, and involves complex interpersonal and group dynamics. Humor can strengthen and develop relationships, but is likely to require a supportive interpersonal and social context for positive forms to develop. Peer-victimization endangers such development, and provides a useful context within which to evaluate humor development. Among adolescents (Fox et al., in press) there are four main humor styles, two are adaptive (affiliative and self-enhancing) and two are maladaptive (aggressive and self-defeating). Klein and Kuiper (2006) theorized that victimized children have fewer peer-interaction opportunities and so may be disadvantaged with respect to the development of adaptive humor styles. They further suggested that victims may internalize bullies’ negative comments, leading to a self-defeating humor style. Furthermore, self-defeating humor is considered to reflect an underlying neediness and low self-esteem. Given that low self-regard has been identified as a risk factor for peer-victimization (Egan & Perry, 1998), a vicious circle between self-defeating humor and peer-victimization may develop. The present study applied a cross-lagged panel design to begin disentangling directionality in the relationships between humor and victimization. Overall, 1,235 young people aged 11-13 years from six secondary schools in England provided self-reports of direct and indirect victimization, and of their humor styles. These were completed at the beginning and end of the school year. Using AMOS 20.0, a full cross-lagged model was tested. The model displayed acceptable fit, CMIN/DF = 2.040, CFI = .907, RMSEA = .029. Indirect victimization was found to predict an increase in young people’s use of self-defeating humor. Humor did impact upon later victimization with self-defeating humor leading to an increase in both direct and indirect peer victimization. The implications of these results for theory relating to humor and victimization are discussed.