Lie-telling for personal gain in children with and without externalizing behavior problems

Victoria Talwar*, Jennifer Lavoie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Few studies have examined the lie-telling behaviors of children who have externalizing problems using experimental procedures. In the current study, children’s lie-telling for personal gain (N = 110 boys 6-11 years old) was examined using an experimental paradigm in relation to their theory-of-mind abilities and inhibitory control, as well as their moral evaluations of truth and lies. Children with externalizing behaviors (n = 53) were significantly more likely to lie and to be less skilled at lying than a typical comparison group (n= 57). Children who had lower theory-of-mind scores were significantly less likely to tell a lie for personal gain compared to those with higher theory-of-mind scores. Children with externalizing problems who told personal gain lies were also more likely to rate tattle truths more positively than other children. For a subsample of children (n = 55), parent-reported diaries of the frequency of children’s lies over two weeks revealed higher frequency of lies by children with externalizing problems compared to the typical comparison group. Children whose parents reported a high frequency of lies for their child were also more likely to lie in the experimental personal gain lie paradigm. Results suggest that children with externalizing behavior may have a different pattern of lie-telling than has been previously reported for normative lie development.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105385
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Early online date22 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • children
  • lie-telling
  • externalizing behavior
  • theory of mind
  • deception
  • lying frequency
  • antisocial lies


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