Insights

How ‘Dad Jokes’ Help Children Learn How To Handle Embarrassment

June 14, 2024 912
Dad reads to kid.
(Photo: StockSnap/Pixabay)

This Father’s Day you may be rolling out your best “dad jokes” and watching your children laugh (or groan). Maybe you’ll hear your own father, partner or friend crack a dad joke or two. You know the ones:

What is the most condescending animal? A pan-DUH!

Why don’t scientists trust atoms? Because they make up everything!

Yes, dad jokes can be fun. They play an important role in how we interact with our kids. But dad jokes may also help prepare them to handle embarrassment later in life.

What are dad jokes?

Dad jokes are a distinct style of humor consisting of puns that are simple, wholesome and often involve a cheesy delivery.

These jokes usually feature obvious wordplay and a straightforward punchline that leaves listeners either chuckling or emitting an exaggerated groan.

This corny brand of humor is popular. There are hundreds of websites, YouTube videos and TikToks dedicated to them. You can even play around with dad joke generators if you need some inspiration.

Why are dad jokes so popular?

People seem to love dad jokes, partly because of the puns.

A study published last year found people enjoy puns more than most other types of jokes. The authors also suggested that if you groan in response to a pun, this can be a sign you enjoy the joke, rather than find it displeasing.

Other research shows dad jokes work on at least three levels:

1. As tame puns

Humor typically violates a kind of boundary. At the most basic level, dad jokes only violate a language norm. They require specific knowledge of the language to “get” them, in a way a fart joke does not.

The fact that dad jokes are wholesome and inoffensive means dads can tell them around their children. But this also potentially makes them tame, which other people might call unfunny.

2. As anti-humor

Telling someone a pun that’s too tame to deserve being told out loud is itself a violation of the norms of joke-telling. That violation can in turn make a dad joke funny. In other words, a dad joke can be so unfunny this makes it funny – a type of anti-humor.

3. As weaponized anti-humor

Sometimes, the purpose of a dad joke is not to make people laugh but to make them groan and roll their eyes. When people tell dad jokes to teasingly annoy someone else for fun, dad jokes work as a kind of weaponized anti-humor.

The stereotypical scenario associated with dad jokes is exactly this: a dad telling a pun and then his kids rolling their eyes out of annoyance or cringing from embarrassment.

Dad jokes help dads be dads

Dad jokes are part of a father’s toolkit for engaging with his loved ones, a way to connect through laughter. But as children grow older, the way they receive puns change.

Children at around six years old enjoy hearing and telling puns. These are generally innocent ones such as:

Why is six afraid of seven? Because seven ate nine!

The Conversation logo
This article by Shane Rogers and Marc Hye-Knudsen originally appeared on The Conversation, a Social Science Space partner site, under the title “How ‘dad jokes’ may prepare your kids for a lifetime of embarrassment, according to psychology.”

As children age and their language and reasoning abilities develop, their understanding of humor becomes more complex.

In adolescence, they may start to view puns as unfunny. This, however, doesn’t stop their fathers from telling them.

Instead, fathers can revel in the embarrassment their dad jokes can produce around their image-conscious and sensitive adolescent children.

In fact, in a study, one of us (Marc) suggests the playful teasing that comes with dad jokes may be partly why they are such a widespread cultural phenomenon.

This playful and safe teasing serves a dual role in father-child bonding in adolescence. Not only is it playful and fun, it can also be used to help educate the young person how to handle feeling embarrassed.

Helping children learn how to deal with embarrassment is no laughing matter. Getting better at this is a very important part of learning how to regulate emotions and develop resilience.

Modelling the use of humor also has benefits. Jokes can be a useful coping strategy during awkward situations – for instance, after someone says something awkward or to make someone laugh who has become upset.

Dad jokes are more than punchlines

So, the next time you hear your father unleash a cringe-worthy dad joke, remember it’s not just about the punchline. It’s about creating connections and lightening the mood.

So go ahead, let out that groan, and share a smile with the one who proudly delivers the dad jokes. It’s all part of the fun.

Shane Rogers (pictured) is a lecturer in psychology at Edith Cowan University. Marc Hye-Knudsen works in the department of economics and business economics at Aarhus University.

View all posts by Shane Rogers and Marc Hye-Knudsen

Related Articles

Let’s Return to Retractions Being Corrective, Not Punitive
Communication
July 15, 2024

Let’s Return to Retractions Being Corrective, Not Punitive

Read Now
Uncovering ‘Sneaked References’ in an Article’s Metadata
Communication
July 11, 2024

Uncovering ‘Sneaked References’ in an Article’s Metadata

Read Now
Reflections of a Former Student Body President: ‘Student Government is a Thankless Job’
Insights
July 1, 2024

Reflections of a Former Student Body President: ‘Student Government is a Thankless Job’

Read Now
Megan Stevenson on Why Interventions in the Criminal Justice System Don’t Work
Social Science Bites
July 1, 2024

Megan Stevenson on Why Interventions in the Criminal Justice System Don’t Work

Read Now
Fifth Edition of ‘The Evidence’: Do Peacebuilding Practices Exclude Women?

Fifth Edition of ‘The Evidence’: Do Peacebuilding Practices Exclude Women?

The June 2024 installment of The Evidence newsletter puts post-war conflict resolution practices under the microscope – taking a closer look at how women are adversely affected by these peacebuilding exercises.

Read Now
Why We’ve Had to Dramatically Shift How We Talk About UK Politics

Why We’ve Had to Dramatically Shift How We Talk About UK Politics

The upcoming UK General Election is often framed as ‘Rishi or Kier for PM.’ This is not, write the authors a textbook on UK politics, the questions being asked by actual Britons.

Read Now
Pandemic Nemesis: Illich reconsidered

Pandemic Nemesis: Illich reconsidered

An unexpected element of post-pandemic reflections has been the revival of interest in the work of Ivan Illich, a significant public intellectual […]

Read Now
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments