*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on EurekAlert.
“If you don’t behave, I’ll call the police,” is a lie that parents might use to get their young children to behave. Parents’ lies elicit compliance in the short term, but a new psychology study led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) suggests that they are 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 more 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, 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 behavior 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.”