The uses of humour in case management with high-risk children and their families

Jane F Gilgun, Alankaar Sharma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


While humour is prevalent in social services, discussions of humour are rare in social work journals. The present article discusses the uses of humour among a team of service providers in a child and family service agency where the families are among the most high-risk in the county that the agency serves. We viewed humour as the amusement at incongruity, which appears to be its essential feature, and recognised that humour can foster effectiveness but also can be cruel (Morreall, 2010). The present research provides case examples of situations a team of service providers found amusing. We found that case managers use humour to regulate negative emotions, to express frustration that led to tension relief and then to creative problem solving, to diffuse anxiety and to express liking and admiration for service users. This article contributes to practice and policy by highlighting the potential advantages of humour in high-stress service situations and by recommending that the use of humour be evaluated in terms of the ethical imperative of doing no harm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)560-577
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2012


  • Case management
  • childrens mental health
  • family and childrens services
  • resilience
  • secondary trauma
  • stress


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