Research Methods

The project has a longitudinal design. That means that we collect data over an extended period: in our case at the beginning and end of the school year. Children fill out two questionnaires at the beginning, and two questionnaires at the end, of the school year. More about the questionnaires is written below.

CHILD HUMOUR STYLES QUESTIONNAIRE

Researchers have identified four dimensions reflecting the use of humour in everyday life: These are (a) self-enhancing humour, which is used to enhance the self, but is not detrimental to others (e.g. ‘If I am feeling scared I find that it helps to laugh’), (b) aggressive humour which enhances the self (at least in the short-term), is done at the expense of others (e.g. ‘If someone makes a mistake I will often tease them about it’), (c) affiliative humour which is done to enhance one’s relationships with others and reduce interpersonal tensions (e.g.’ I often make other people laugh by telling jokes and funny stories’ ), and (d) self-defeating humour, which is also done to enhance one’s relationships with others, but at the expense of denigration of the self (e.g. ‘I often try to get other people to like me more by saying something funny about things that are wrong with me or mistakes that I make’).

The Child Humour Styles Questionnaire was specifically developed by Claire Fox, S Dean, and K Lyford, to research these humour styles in children. It is a 24-item questionnaire, where children are asked to respond on a scale from 1 – strongly disagree, to 4 – strongly agree.

DEPRESSION, LONELINESS AND SELF-ESTEEM

We measure depression using the long-established Child Depression Inventory (Short Form). This is a 10-item measure, suitable for children aged 7-17 years.

We measure loneliness using a four-item measure; the Loneliness and Social Satisfaction scale.

Self-esteem is measured using an established 10-item, self-report self-esteem measure for adolescents, where children respond from 1 – not at all like me to 5 – very much like me.

INVOLVEMENT IN BULLYING

We use an adapted version of the Direct and Indirect Aggression Scale to measure experiences of direct verbal, direct physical and indirect bullying and peer victimisation (18 items in total). Children will be asked to indicate how often this has happened to them in the current school term (0 = never, 4 = very often). They will also be asked to report how often they have engaged in each of the behaviours described, (e.g.,. hit another, called another child a nasty name).

PEER NOMINATION MEASURES

Children are provided with a list of their classmates’ names and asked to rate them for liking, and to nominate their friends, and a very best friend.  We also ask them to nominate up to three other children in the class who use different humour styles (e.g., who are ‘good at making others laugh’ or who ‘make others laugh by telling jokes and funny stories’).

We ask children to nominate up to three classmates who ‘get called nasty names by other children’, ‘get hit, kicked and pushed around by other children’, and ‘get left out of groups by other kids’. The same items are used to assess bullying behaviour,( i.e. ‘hits, kicks and pushes around other children’).

The use of peer nomination data is often used in this research area, and is important, especially when it comes to bullying, because this is an area where self-report data can be unreliable, as children might be dishonest. The method has been approved by a wide range of ethics committees guided by a range of ethics guidelines (e.g., the British Psychological Society and the American Psychological Association).

There is now a wealth of research which shows that peer-report data collection places children at no greater risk than they encounter in everyday life. To our knowledge, there are no studies that show that peer nomination techniques have any appreciable negative effects on children.

We are completely up front with the parents and children about what is involved and, as the nominations happen in the second session, they get advance warning about what is coming up. The children complete the task in silence.  Finally, we stress that while they can discuss their answers with their parents/guardian or teacher, they must not discuss their answers with any other children

In June and July 2011 we piloted this process at secondary school and the link teacher at that school reported that there were no negative consequences following testing.

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