Thursday, July 15, 2010

Facts on Children's Lying

Everyone remembers the story of Pinocchio, the little wooden boy and his “conscience” Jiminy Cricket. Of course, Pinocchio had a problem with lying, as every time he did, his nose would grow. As parents, we don’t have the benefit of such evidence when our children lie.

In a recent study of over one thousand kindergarteners followed over three years (Gervais et al., 2000) teachers reported that 71% to 83% of children do not lie. Mothers, however, showed less trust in their children as only 33% to 37% reported that their children rarely lie. Teachers did agree with mothers in one area - that boys were more likely than girls to lie frequently.

Some children will lie only on occasion in tempting situations and research findings support that occasional lying among children is normal. However, some children will lie frequently, usually in a given setting such as school. The problem with frequent lying in children, as stated by experts (Gervais et al., 2000; Stott, 2004), is that over time, with experience and cognitive developmental gains, they perfect their skills of deception with adults.

The researchers reported that children perceived to lie regularly at age 7 were also likely to lie consistently at age 8. And children who lied on a continual basis were more likely to act disruptively at home and at school. So parents need not panic if you catch your child in an occasional lie, but children’s lying on a constant basis is cause for concern and calls for intervention.

Gervais, J., Tremblay, R.E., Desmarais-Gervais, L., & Vitaro, F. (2000). Children’s persistent lying, gender differences, and disruptive behaviours: A longitudinal perspective. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 241, 213-221.
Stott, F. (2004). The surprising truth about why children lie. Scholastic Parent & Child 68-70.