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Publication #FAR0101

Facts on Children's Lying: What Every Parent Needs to Know1

Kate Fogarty2

Everyone remembers the story of Pinocchio, the little wooden boy, and his "conscience," Jiminy Cricket. Of course, Pinocchio had a problem with lying, as every time he did his nose would grow. As parents, we don't have the benefit of such evidence when our children lie.

In a recent study of over one thousand kindergarteners followed over three years, teachers reported that 71% to 83% of children do not lie. Mothers, however, showed less trust in their children, as only 33% to 37% reported that their children lie rarely. Teachers did agree with mothers in one area: that boys were more likely than girls to lie frequently (Gervais et al. 2000).

Some children will lie only on occasion in tempting situations, and research findings support that occasional lying among children is normal. However, some children will lie frequently, usually in a given setting, such as school. The problem with frequent lying in children, as stated by experts, is that over time, with experience and cognitive developmental gains, they perfect their skills of deception with adults (Gervais et al. 2000; Stott 2005).

The researchers reported that children perceived to lie regularly at age 7 were also likely to lie consistently at age 8, and children who lied on a continual basis were more likely to act disruptively at home and at school. So, parents, you need not panic if you catch your child in an occasional lie, but children's lying on a constant basis is cause for concern and calls for intervention.

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Gervais, J., Tremblay, R. E., Desmarais-Gervais, L., & Vitaro, F. (2000). Children's persistent lying, gender differences, and disruptive behaviours: A longitudinal perspective. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 241, 213-221.

Stott, F. (2005). The surprising truth about why children lie. Early Childhood Today, 19(5), 8-9.



This document is FAR0101, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 316. Published March 2009. Revised March 2009. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Kate Fogarty, assistant professor,Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.