Children's conceptions of lying and Truth-Telling: Implications for child witnesses

K. Bussey*, E. J. Grimbeek

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    24 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose. This study investigated children's lying and truth-telling competence using developmentally appropriate assessment and questioning procedures. Specifically, it addressed children's knowledge about and evaluation of lies and truths. Methods. Children were presented with six vignettes in which the story character either lied or told the truth about having committed a misdeed. After each vignette, they were asked if the statement was a lie or a truth (definition), how certain they were about their categorization of the statement, and to rate the goodness and badness of the statement (evaluation). Seventy-two children participated in the study. Twelve boys and 12 girls were randomly drawn from each of three ages: 4-, 7- and 10-year-olds. The design was a 2 (Sex of Participant) x 3 (Age: 4, 7, 10) x 2 (Statement Type: Lie, Truth-within-subjects factor). Results. Seven- and 10-year-old children classified all false statements as lies and true statements as truths, whereas 4-year-olds correctly classified 88% across both statement types. They were equally accurate in their classification of lies (89%) and truths (87%). All children appreciated the seriousness of lying; lies were rated more negatively than truths. However, 4-year-olds were less likely to appreciate the goodness of truth-telling over lying than the two older age groups. Only the older children rated truths more positively than lies. Conclusions. The results show that 4-year-olds have a sufficient understanding of lying and truth-telling competence to participate effectively in the legal system.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)187-199
    Number of pages13
    JournalLegal and Criminological Psychology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


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