Children and the truth: a ‘complicated’ relationship


By Cara Murez HealthDay Reporter, HealthDay Reporter

(Health day)

THURSDAY, Oct. 13, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Although kids are told not to lie, they also get mixed messages about being honest in different situations.

In a new study, researchers looked at how adults reacted to children’s levels of honesty in various situations, from telling bold truths to telling subtle lies.

Among the key findings: Children were judged more harshly when they told hard truths rather than lying.

“This research tends to show that there is a complicated relationship with the truth that children must navigate to learn what is socially acceptable,” said lead author Dr. Laure Brimbal. She is an assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology at Texas State University at San Marcos.

“Most parents will have been embarrassed or upset by their child’s brutal honesty at some point,” Brimbal said. “Learning to tell lies is a normal part of children’s social development.”

For the study, 267 adults were shown videos of children telling the truth or lying in various social situations. The 24 children were between 6 and 15 years old.

An example of blunt truths was “I don’t want this gift, it’s ugly!” Other examples included a boy who lied about where her sister was hiding, that she had problems with her parents, as well as another boy who lied to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.

Adults watched videos in which children acted out four variations of “hard” or “soft” lies or truths.

In the scenario where the sister was hiding, the blunt lie was “she went to the library to do her homework”. The subtle truth was “I think she might be outside.” The subtle lie was “I think she might have gone to bed or something.” The blunt truth was “she is under the porch”.

After viewing the videos, the adults were asked for their impression of the boy’s character. They were asked to rate their trustworthiness, agreeableness, trustworthiness, competence, agreeableness, intelligence, and honesty. Imagining that they were the child’s parents, participants were also asked to rate the likelihood that they would punish or reward the child for her lies or truths.

The study found that adults judged children who told blunt truths more harshly than those who lied or told vague truths, but only when they told lies out of politeness. Telling blunt truths or lies intended to protect others had less influence on the adults’ opinion of the child.

In general, adults would more often reward children for telling “soft truths.” An example of this was saying “I think she might be outside” about the hidden sister.

“Children are taught that lying is wrong, yet they develop the ability to tell lies from an early age,” Brimbal said, adding that researchers know little about the mechanisms underlying the development of the critical social skill of lying. the “prosocial lie”.

“It seems to be an important social skill to lie to fit in with others’ expectations, but this is despite possible mixed messages from their adult carers that it is wrong to lie…while, in addition, it is sometimes perceived as unreliable.” nice to be honest,” he added.

The results suggest that the way adults view the lies they are told to fit in and view them positively, and what behaviors adults reward or punish, shape how children learn to behave in a way that is acceptable to society. .

“Given the pervasive impact of socialization influences on children’s behavior, as well as the mixed messages children receive about lying, it is not surprising that they engage in nuanced lying from an early age,” he explained. Brimbal.

She said the study shows the degree to which adults are inconsistent in their self-reported behavioral assessments and responses.

It’s not clear whether adults’ behavior in person would be the same, but Brimbal said it’s likely that conflicting explicit and implicit messages about honesty and dishonesty shape children’s early behavior.

The next steps for research will be to investigate how these early socialization processes affect truth-telling and lying as children become adults, the study authors noted.

FONT: Journal of Moral Educationpress release, October 12, 2022

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