Lying and Truthfulness: Children's Definitions, Standards, and Evaluative Reactions

Kay Bussey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Citations (Scopus)


Preschool (M= 4.9 years), second‐ (M= 7.8 years), and fifth‐ (M= 11.0 years) grade children's definitions of, moral standards for, and internal evaluative reactions to both lies and truthful statements were investigated. The influence of 4 factors on these judgments was also examined: the falsity of the statement, the content of the statement, whether or not the statement was believed, and whether or not the statement resulted in punishment. Results revealed that while the older children identified almost all statements correctly, preschoolers correctly identified about 70% of lies and truthful statements. Lies were rated as worse than truthful statements by all age groups; however, only the second and fifth graders ascribed feelings of pride to story characters after truthfulness. Implications of these findings for children's moral development are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-137
Number of pages9
JournalChild Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1992


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