Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 228–237 | Cite as

An Initial Study on How Families Deal with Ridicule and Being Laughed at: Parenting Styles and Parent–Child Relations with Respect to Gelotophobia, Gelotophilia, and Katagelasticism

  • René T. Proyer
  • Stephanie Estoppey
  • Willibald Ruch


Familial aggregation and the effect of parenting styles on three dispositions toward ridicule and being laughed at were tested. Nearly 100 families (parents, their adult children, and their siblings) completed subjective questionnaires to assess the presence of gelotophobia (the fear of being laughed at), gelotophilia (the joy of being laughed at), and katagelasticism (the joy of laughing at others). A positive relationship between fear of being laughed at in children and their parents was found. Results for gelotophilia were similar but numerically lower; if split by gender of the adult child, correlations to the mother’s gelotophilia exceeded those of the father. Katagelasticism arose independently from the scores in the parents but was robustly related to greater katagelasticism in the children’s siblings. Gelotophobes remembered punishment (especially from the mother), lower warmth and higher control from their parents (this was also found in the parents’ recollections of their parenting style). The incidence of gelotophilia was unrelated to specific parenting styles, and katagelasticism exhibited only weak relations with punishment. The study suggests a specific pattern in the relation of the three dispositions within families and argues for a strong impact of parenting styles on gelotophobia but less so for gelotophilia and katagelasticism.


Familial aggregation Gelotophilia Gelotophobia Humor Katagelasticism Laughter Parenting style 



The completion of this paper has been facilitated by a research grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF; 100014_126967-1). The authors are grateful to Dr. Frank A. Rodden for proofreading the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • René T. Proyer
    • 1
  • Stephanie Estoppey
    • 1
  • Willibald Ruch
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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