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Child Dev. 2011 Nov-Dec;82(6):1751-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01663.x. Epub 2011 Oct 24.

A punitive environment fosters children's dishonesty: a natural experiment.

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  • 1McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


The present study compared the lie-telling behavior of 3- and 4-year-old West African children (N = 84) from either a punitive or a nonpunitive school. Children were told not to peek at a toy when left alone in a room. Most children could not resist the temptation and peeked at the toy. When the experimenter asked them if they had peeked, the majority of the punitive school peekers lied about peeking at the toy while significantly fewer nonpunitive school children did so. The punitive school children were better able to maintain their deception than nonpunitive school children when answering follow-up questions. Thus, a punitive environment not only fosters increased dishonesty but also children's abilities to lie to conceal their transgressions.

© 2011 The Authors. Child Development © 2011 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.

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