Humor’s early days in children

Young children’s ability to laugh and make jokes has been mapped by age for the first time using data from a new study involving nearly 700 children from birth to 4 years of age, from around the world. The findings, led by University of Bristol researchers and published in Behavior Research Methods, identifies the earliest age humour emerges and how it typically builds in the first years of life…

The team found the earliest reported age that some children appreciated humour was 1 month, with an estimated 50% of children appreciating humour by 2 months, and 50% producing humour by 11 months. The team also show that once children produced humour, they produced it often, with half of children having joked in the last 3 hours.

Of the children surveyed, the team identified 21 different types of humour. Children under one year of age appreciated physical, visual and auditory forms of humour. This included hide and reveal games (e.g., peekaboo), tickling, funny faces, bodily humour (e.g., putting your head through your legs), funny voices and noises, chasing, and misusing objects (e.g., putting a cup on your head).

Dr Elena Hoicka, Associate Professor in Bristol’s School of Education and the study’s lead author, said: “Our results highlight that humour is a complex, developing process in the first four years of life. Given its universality and importance in so many aspects of children’s and adults’ lives, it is important that we develop tools to determine how humour first develops so that we can further understand not only the emergence of humour itself, but how humour may help young children function cognitively, socially, and in terms of mental health.

And laughter is the best medicine…someone first said long before we were born.

Revisiting the Marshmallow Test


Josie Garner

When kids “pass” the marshmallow test, are they simply better at self-control or is something else going on? A new UC San Diego study revisits the classic psychology experiment and reports that part of what may be at work is that children care more deeply than previously known what authority figures think of them.

In the marshmallow test, young children are given one marshmallow and told they can eat it right away or, if they wait a while, while nobody is watching, they can have two marshmallows instead. The half-century-old test is quite well-known. It’s entered everyday speech, and you may have chuckled at an online video or two in which children struggle adorably on hidden camera with the temptation of an immediate treat…

But the real reason the test is famous (and infamous) is because researchers have shown that the ability to wait – to delay gratification in order to get a bigger reward later – is associated with a range of positive life outcomes far down the line, including better stress tolerance and higher SAT scores…”Our new research suggests that in addition to measuring self-control, the task may also be measuring another important skill: awareness of what other people value.”

Interesting read. Understanding children and their changing values is useful stuff.

I guess.

Help children respond to the pandemic affecting their lives

For parents, helping children cope during the COVID-19 pandemic may be as simple as listening, Steven Marans argues.

Children are struggling with difficult issues, says Marans, a child and adult psychoanalyst at Yale University Medicine and chief of the Trauma Section at the Child Study Center…

In a year marked by COVID-19, discussions around racial justice, a crashing economy, and a divisive presidential election, he says parents need to first acknowledge their own emotions and stress reactions in order to be most attentive to their child’s responses to recent events.

“Then, if children are having ‘big feelings’—or showing signs of their distress—it’s an opportunity to hit the pause button and help them recognize and reflect on those feelings,” Marans says.

Not solutions to everything; but, a lot to offer about individual questions children will be asking themselves and the adults important to their lives.

Anti-Vaxxers defeated in New York

❝ Anti-vaccine advocates received a blow in New York Thursday as state lawmakers banned non-medical exemptions based on religious beliefs — and there may be more blows coming.

❝ Also on Thursday, the American Medical Association adopted a new policy to step up its fight against such non-medical exemptions. The AMA, the country’s largest physicians’ group and one of the largest spenders on lobbying, has always strongly support pediatric vaccination and opposed non-medical exemptions. But under the new policy changes, the association will now “actively advocate” for states to eliminate any laws that allow for non-medical exemptions.

Overdue. I don’t expect this to change folks who trust preachers over scientists; but, we all stand a better change of keeping children safer from preventable disease.

Taking aim

❝ Rebecca Cunningham of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor became acquainted with guns at a tender age: When she was 5 years old, her mother kicked out her violent husband, who had beaten her and threatened to kill her. And she bought a gun.

❝ Today, Cunningham, who once watched her mother tuck that pistol in her purse as she headed to the shooting range, is directing the largest gun research grant that the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded in at least 30 years. With $4.9 million from NIH’s child health institute and a team of 27 researchers at 12 institutions, she is on a mission to jump-start gun injury research on a population as vulnerable as she once was: U.S. children and teenagers, for whom guns are the second-leading cause of death.

As a hunter [in younger years] and gun owner with ethical concerns, I have to endorse this sort of research. The cynic in me still says cowardly politicians have no interest in the popular will of Americans vis-a-vis guns and gun control – but, it’s always worth extending our knowledge and continuing the fight.