When do kids learn to understand sarcasm?

I am the first to admit I can be quite sarcastic at times. I have always enjoyed that type of humor, even when it has gotten me into trouble. As far as school goes, teachers with a well-developed wit always kept my attention in elementary and high school classes to a higher degree than others. But the other day, as I was lying around reminiscing about kindergarten for some reason, I realized that my more innocent self would never have understood a sarcastic remark and I would probably have been personally hurt by such things back when I was only 5. This got me wondering: when does a person begin to understand sarcasm?

image courtesy annebean.com

From what I researched, there doesn’t seem to be any one definitive answer to this question. One report stated that kids begin to perceive sarcasm between the ages of 8 and 9 by the tone of the speaker’s voice. But they then go on and say children don’t really understand it fully until around 11 or 12. But Melanie Glenwright of the University of Manitoba conducted her own research and came up with different results. She is quoted in the article as saying that, “Kids detect sarcasm at about age 6, but don’t begin to see the intended humour until around age 10.” This is fascinating, but I was inclined to believe this article more as it gave a clear indication it got the information from a college professor conducting scientific research. But to be sure, I checked another source: a British psychological study that said the age of understanding was between 9 and 10. At this point, it became clear that enough research hasn’t been conducted in this area of study to come up with a definitive answer on the subject.

13 thoughts on “When do kids learn to understand sarcasm?

  1. Samantha Marie Grillo

    This is an awesome topic!! I can be very sarcastic at times, and I appreciate it when other people can be just as sarcastic back to me. Your article made me think about when I may have developed an understanding, and appreciation, for sarcasm, and I honestly can’t remember what age.

  2. Thomas Curran

    Sarcasm is a very important concept to understand because it is used so frequently, especially among people who are very close to each other. I must agree with the fact that I do love sarcasm just because it makes my day a little happier, but using sarcasm at the right times is extremely important. Using it at the wrong time will likely make people mad at you and take you less serious. I would love to see more studies done on how children’s brains actually pick up on sarcasm and learn to use it!

  3. Alexandra D Hayward

    Sarcasm is the best thing ever. I use it 99% of the time, I’m surprised there was no conclusive data to tell us when kids actually start understanding sarcasm. Maybe in the future there will be some evidence that points us in the right direction!

  4. Nicolette Lynn Brown

    I’m really interested in this article because my younger brother, who is now 12, is one of the most sarcastic people I know. Even from a young age he showed sarcasm and was always witty. I would have to agree with the fact that at age 6 they pick up on humor. My brother could tell what was really funny and always say and do funny things that would grab the attention of adults. I think children base sarcasm off of how the people are around them and how they interact with them. My dad is by far the most sarcastic and wittiest person I know, and it really influences my brother when they have conversations. I also agree that more studies should be done to see why some kids might not pick up on it right away and why others might.

  5. Erik Samuel Ridley Post author

    I completely agree that it should be an easy study. I looked everywhere to see if something similar has been conducted, but found nothing!

  6. Stephen B Caruso

    As someone who can be very sarcastic with many younger cousins, I can definitely relate to this article. From my experience,I have a younger cousin who is now 10 and just starting to continue a conversation with sarcasm or respond to my sarcastic remarks. However, I do not agree that kids start to understand sarcasm at the age of six because i have a cousin who is 8 and still barely picks up on my sarcasm. I agree that more research must be conducted before a definitive age is concluded.

  7. azb5768

    this article interests me because i have a younger sister and i would always be sarcastic with her but she never understood. As entered middle school or maybe a little before that i started to realize that she understood was it was to be sarcastic and made sarcastic remarks to me or my parents. It took me by surprise at first because by that time i wasn’t as sarcastic with her so she must have learned it from peers at school. I think children understand sarcasm at a young age but dont start using it until they are about middle school level.

  8. Eric Horowitz

    Now the concept of kids actually understanding sarcasm is really interesting. Something that is considered to be a method of mocking and making fun of someone by saying something but meaning the complete opposite of it. Also a side note based on kids today some of them never actually understood sarcasm.

  9. Isabel Linares-Martin

    I would have never thought about this until you mentioned it! I am very fascinated my sarcasm too, and I tend to use it l lot in my everyday life. However, I agree that it is very hard to determine when kids pick up on sarcasm since everyone learns at his or her own speed. Just like the many articles that you found, it seems that there is a variety of different ages and it has not yet been determined.

  10. Natalia Paternina

    I love to use sarcasm so I can definitely relate to this topic. Your blog on kids understanding sarcasm made me think of how sometimes it’s hard to understand sarcasm through text or emails. I think it might be consistent with the theory that kids aren’t able to understand sarcasm at a young age, probably because they can’t detect emotion as well as older people (like with texting).

  11. Jessica M Lee

    Sarcasm is probably my second language and like you, it has definitely gotten me into more trouble then what it’s worth, especially with my parents. I never really thought about when I began to understand and use it but after reading this post, I definitely will be more aware about when I use it, like with younger kids. Here is an article about the effects of sarcasm when used with children.

  12. Daniel Liam Cavanaugh

    This is an interesting topic and I definitely agree that more studies should be done on it because it would show how long it takes for under-devoped brains to learn social skills.

  13. Rob Buckley

    This blog reminds me of myself very much, i always use sarcasm and love the humor of it. It is interesting that there is a age that people start to understand sarcasm, because some people still don’t seem to get it. I believe a study could be done to find this out quite easily. just have people of all different ages answer questions that show if they truly understand sarcasm or not.

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