NEW YORK — Children who lie more often to their parents are more likely to start drinking alcohol at an earlier age, a new study finds. The research also shows that adolescents who enjoy a more honest and supportive relationship with their parents are less likely to experiment with alcohol early on.
Researchers at New York University and the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Russia analyzed 4,000 U.S. seventh- and eighth-graders relationships and their mothers for the longitudinal study. After the authors ensured the participants that their identities remained anonymous and their answers confidential, they evaluated the levels of openness and trust between the children and their parents. Instances of children lying or withholding information from their parents were recorded, and the offspring was then polled on their alcohol use.
The authors found that the teens who had lied to their parents were at greater odds of developing a drinking habit or even becoming an alcoholic as an adult than the children who were open with their family. Conversely, they concluded that having a supportive and trusting relationship with parents made teens less likely to lie and less likely to abuse alcohol in the future.
A child’s friends also made a difference in the results: those who hung with other kids who drank alcohol showed an increased risk of lying to parents — particularly in boys.
“Adolescence is the age at which children in our societies work hard to develop their skills of autonomy,” says study co-author Victor Kaploun, an associate sociology professor at the HSE Campus in St. Petersburg, in a university press release. “In a situation where trust is absent from the relationship between parents and their teenage children, the latter might consider both lying and drinking as acceptable practices for developing autonomy skills. This is why such behaviours are interconnected, while excessive parental control can be counterproductive.”
Interestingly, Kaploun and his team found that helicopter parents — those who tend to monitor their kids’ activities with an incredibly watchful eye — were actually more likely to lead their children to lie even more than those who took a step back with a more trusting disposition.
While previous studies centered on a parental supervision and a child’s risk of alcohol dependency, this one was the first to examine the link between adolescents who lie and alcoholism.
The study was published last month in the Journal of Adolescence.