A Longitudinal Examination of the Relation Between Lie-Telling, Secrecy, Parent–Child Relationship Quality, and Depressive Symptoms in Late-Childhood and Adolescence


Lie-telling and secret-keeping are common behaviors during adolescence. Given the importance of honesty for building trust in positive relationships, the present study examined relations between lie-telling, secret-keeping, and relationship quality over time. Additionally, given the protective role of positive relationships in developing depression, the present study examined how lying to and keeping secrets from parents related to depressive symptoms over time. Children and adolescents (N = 1313; 8 to 15 years old at Time 1, Mage= 11.65, SD = 11.75; 50.04% male) reported on lying to parents, secret-keeping from parents, relationship quality with parents, and depressive symptoms at two time points one year apart. The results indicated that greater secret-keeping was bidirectionally associated with poorer parent-child relationship quality and greater depressive symptoms over time. Thus, keeping secrets from parents appears to be an important behavior to examine in the context of development between late childhood and adolescence.

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The authors would also like to thank the research assistants who assisted with data collection, as well as the parents and children for their participation in the study.

Authors’ Contributions

VWD conceived of the research question, performed the statistical analyses, and drafted the manuscript; TW conceived of the study design and coordination, aided in statistical analyses, and provided input on drafts of the manuscript; ADE aided in designing the study, forming the research question and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


TW acknowledges funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and ADE acknowledges funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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Correspondence to Victoria W. Dykstra.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee Brock University Research Ethics Board (reference number: 16-080) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Dykstra, V.W., Willoughby, T. & Evans, A.D. A Longitudinal Examination of the Relation Between Lie-Telling, Secrecy, Parent–Child Relationship Quality, and Depressive Symptoms in Late-Childhood and Adolescence. J Youth Adolescence (2020) doi:10.1007/s10964-019-01183-z

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  • Lie-telling
  • Secrecy
  • Dishonesty
  • Depression
  • Parent–child relationship quality