Children more likely to confess misdeeds if they feel parents will react positively

Children of any age are more likely to confess, instead of hide, their misdeeds—regardless if they might get punishment—if they feel like their parents would react positively to their confession.

Meanwhile, as for older children, they are more likely to see confession of a misdeed as the right thing for them to do as compared to the younger ones.

University of Michigan researchers revealed these findings in a paper, “Children’s confession- and lying-related emotion expectancies: Developmental differences and connections to parent-reported confession behavior,” currently published by the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

The study aimed at investigating the emotions that kids relate with confessing and lying.

It also examined if such emotions were linked to the tendencies of children to cover up or confess misdeeds in real life situations, according to research investigator Craig Smith of the U-M Center for Human Growth and Development.

Along with Michael Rizzo from the University of Maryland, Smith posed questions to a small group of children aged 4 to 9 years old about a series of theoretical situations wherein they carried out misdeeds and later either confessed or lied about it.

Kids of 4 and 5 years old were found to more likely associate positive emotions to lying and negative emotions for confessions. Younger kids were said to frequently focus on the benefits connected with lying.

Meanwhile, children aged 7 to 9 years old more frequently related guilt with lying and positive emotions with confession. They were more capable to speak of how wrong lying is and how right confessing is.

Such results don’t mean, however, that the little ones don’t feel guilt or understand that lying is totally wrong.

Smith said that a child would surely not confess then when adults “bite the kid’s head off immediately.”

He said, “It goes along with the larger picture of being approachable as a parent.”

He also suggested that parents must convey that they’re going to listen without immediately getting angry.

“As a parent, you might not be happy with what your child did, but if you want to keep an open line of communication with your child you can try to show them that you’re happy that your child has told you about it,” he said in a statement.

The researchers said open communication is all the more critical when the child becomes a teenager who struggles with adult issues. For instance, the teenager will have to think things if he should confide to his parent or keep issues secret, such as situations when alcohol or substance abuse is involved.

(Photo Credit: Ren Rebadomia on flickr)




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