Published on 07 Feb 2024

Parenting by lying linked to more lie-telling in children

A common lie parents tell their misbehaving children is: “If you don’t behave, I’ll call the police!” While such instrumental lies – a type of parental lie told to encourage behavioural changes – may lead to behavioural compliance, a new study by NTU Singapore suggests that children told such lies are more likely to lie to their parents.

Through a study of 564 parent-child pairs in Singapore, the NTU researchers found that exposure to white lies – another type of parental lie such as saying “Good job!” even though it is not true to instill positive emotions in children – could also make children more likely to lie to their parents. However, in contrast to an instrumental lie, this effect arises only when children know they have been lied to.

These findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology in January, shed light on how children process different types of parental lies in childhood, highlighting a deeper need to understand lying as a parenting practice and its relation to children’s outcomes, said the researchers led by Associate Professor Setoh Peipei from the Psychology division at NTU’s School of Social Sciences.

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