And we wonder why grown-up society looks the way it does. BPS Research Digest reveals what you suspected:
We teach our kids that it is wrong to lie, even though most of us do it everyday. In fact, it is often our children who we are lying to. A new study, involving participants in the USA and China, is one of the first to investigate parental lies, finding that the majority of parents tell their children lies as a way to control their behavior.
Gail Heyman and her colleagues presented parents in the USA and China with 16 “instrumental lies” in four categories – lies to influence kids’ eating habits (e.g. “you need to finish all your food or you will get pimples all over your face”); lies to get the children to leave or stay put (“If you don’t come with me now, I will leave you here by yourself); lies to control misbehaviour (“If you don’t behave I will call the police”); and lies to do with shopping and money (“I did not bring any money with me today.”).
Eighty-four per cent of US parents and 98 per cent of Chinese parents admitted telling at least one of the 16 lies to their children, and a majority of parents in both countries admitted to telling lies from three of the four categories. As well as looking at instrumental lies, the study also asked parents about untruths they told their children regarding fantasy characters like the tooth-fairy, or to make their children feel better, for example praising a poor piano performance. Here Chinese parents showed less approval toward lying about the existence of fictional characters.