Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Rod Martin


Despite research and theory noting the aggressive and destructive applications of teasing, few studies have investigated its positive uses. The present research explores the use of "prosocial teasing", a positively-intended form of teasing which relies on the playful use of seemingly negative remarks (e.g., "You’re an idiot"), which are incongruent with the established relationship, and aim to indirectly and ironically express positive relational messages to others (e.g., "I accept you"). The goals of the present research are to (1) present a theoretical model of prosocial teasing, (2) construct and validate a self-report measure of prosocial teasing behaviour [i.e., Prosocial Teasing Questionnaire (PTQ)], (3) determine which individual difference variables predict prosocial teasing, and (4) investigate the potential associations between prosocial teasing and interpersonal relationships. A total of 735 university students, across 3 separate samples, completed the PTQ along with questionnaires assessing variables related to humor, personality, psychological well-being, and interpersonal relationships. Friends and family members of participants (i.e., “informants”) were invited to complete an online questionnaire rating the participants’ teasing styles and the quality of their relationship with them. The PTQ yielded a coefficient alpha of .89 and demonstrated convergent validity through a number of positive correlations with humour (e.g., sarcasm, playfulness) and broad personality variables (e.g., agreeableness). The results suggest that prosocial teasers tend to be narcissistic, interpersonally manipulative, emotionally callous, sensation-seeking, risk-taking, and controlling when resolving interpersonal conflict. The data also indicate that prosocial teasing may be used to indirectly communicate negative emotions and beliefs. Interpersonally, the findings suggest that prosocial teasing may be used as a compensatory strategy among those with a variety of interpersonal deficits and may be more adaptive for males. Finally, while self-reported prosocial teasing was positively associated with self-reported relationship quality, informant ratings of prosocial teasing and relationship satisfaction were negatively related. Possible explanations for these findings and its implications for prosocial teasing and future research are discussed. Overall, these findings also provide evidence for the validity of the PTQ to support its use as a tool to further understand the role of teasing in relationships.