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Parents can’t tell when their children lie

Parents may not be able to detect when their children lie as well as they think.

Previous research has shown there is a 50/50 chance of an adult detecting lies in others, so researchers from Brock University in Ontario, Canada were “curious if parents were actually better at detecting their own children’s lies given their personal experience with them”.

In order to find out, psychology professor Angela Evans and a team of researchers showed videos of children telling lies or telling the truth about cheating in a test to three groups of people. The children’s parents, other parents and childless university students all saw the footage and were asked to identify when each child lied.

The results of this experiment showed little difference between the groups in terms of accuracy. Parents were only able to correctly identify their children’s lies 54 per cent of the time. Meanwhile, the other parents and the students were both accurate 51 per cent of the time.

Dr Evans said that during the course of her research they identified a strong ‘truth bias’ among the parents.

“They want to believe that their child isn’t going to cheat on a test and, if they did, that they would tell the truth about having cheated. This means that when children lie to their parents, they are able to get away with it.”

The professor is a mother of two small children. It is important for parents to encourage open and honest family relationships “so children are willing to share the information with us, rather than trying to catch them telling lies” she said.

The study – Can parents detect 8- to 16-year-olds’ lies? Parental biases, confidence, and accuracy – was published in the academic Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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