“If you don’t behave, Santa will leave you a sack of potatoes,” OR “If the wind changes your face will stay like that.”
Just a couple of the many white lies parents tell their children. But now researchers are claiming those little white lies may have a long term effect on our children when they become adults.
Children lied to by parents, end up lying more as adults
A new psychology study led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) suggests that lying to children is associated with detrimental effects when the child becomes an adult.
The research team asked 379 Singaporean young adults whether their parents lied to them when they were children, how much they lie to their parents now, and how well they adjust to adulthood challenges.
Adults who reported being lied to as children were more likely to report lying to their parents in their adulthood.
They also said they faced greater difficulty in meeting psychological and social challenges. Adjustment difficulties include disruptiveness, conduct problems, the experience of guilt and shame, as well as selfish and manipulative character.
The research, done in collaboration with Canada’s University of Toronto, the United States’ University of California, San Diego, and China’s Zhejiang Normal University, was published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology in September.
Lead author Assistant Professor Setoh Peipei from NTU Singapore’s School of Social Sciences said, “Parenting by lying can seem to save time especially when the real reasons behind why parents want children to do something is complicated to explain. When parents tell children that ‘honesty is the best policy’, but display dishonesty by lying, such behaviour can send conflicting messages to their children. Parents’ dishonesty may eventually erode trust and promote dishonesty in children.”
“Our research suggests that parenting by lying is a practice that has negative consequences for children when they grow up. Parents should be aware of these potential downstream implications and consider alternatives to lying, such as acknowledging children’s feelings, giving information so children know what to expect, offering choices and problem-solving together, to elicit good behaviour from children.”