Instrumental lying by parents in the US and China

Authors:
Gail D. Heyman, Anna S. Hsu, Genyue Fu, Kang Lee
Published Online:
05 Feb 2014
DOI:
10.1080/00207594.2012.746463
Pages:
1176–1184
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 48 Issue 6

Additional Options

The practice of lying to one's children to encourage behavioral compliance was investigated among parents in the US (N = 114) and China (N = 85). The vast majority of parents (84% in the US and 98% in China) reported having lied to their children for this purpose. Within each country, the practice most frequently took the form of falsely threatening to leave a child alone in public if he or she refused to follow the parent. Crosscultural differences were seen: A larger proportion of the parents in China reported that they employed instrumental lie‐telling to promote behavioral compliance, and a larger proportion approved of this practice, as compared to the parents in the US. This difference was not seen on measures relating to the practice of lying to promote positive feelings, or on measures relating to statements about fantasy characters such as the tooth fairy. Findings are discussed with reference to sociocultural values and certain parenting‐related challenges that extend across cultures.

© 2013 International Union of Psychological Science