When it comes to lying in front of boys and girls, it turns out parents are not equal opportunists.
A new study on dishonesty, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, offered a surprising revelation: that parents are more apt to lie in front of their sons than their daughters.
The reason for the gender difference is uncertain, but it's possible that "dishonest behavior is considered more socially acceptable for boys," says Anya Savikhin Samek, a co-author of the study. Samek also speculates that cultural expectations (like ones to raise good little girls who are pure in heart) may feed into a parent's decision to be more careful, or that parents may believe that girls suffer more consequences for lying when they're adults.
Researchers conducted a simple experiment with 152 parents and their kids (ages 3 to 6). Each parent was asked to flip two coins, both with a blue side and a green side. A $10 reward would be given every time two coins landed green-side up. Each parent was then left alone or with their child in a room, to flip the coins a few times and record the results.
The researchers then compared the number of recorded wins (60 percent) to the probability of winning (25 percent), which determined that a majority of parents definitely lied about winning.
Of course, parents were more likely to lie when they were alone, but researchers discovered that when a son was present, a 40 percent win was recorded (versus a 25 percent win in front of a daughter).
This latest research adds to a wider conversation about perceived gender differences between boys and girls, gender stereotypes, and how boys may be raised differently. But it also shows that to prevent kids from lying, parents need to curb their own tendency to lie first.
Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com. She loves collecting children's picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea
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Photo: Lying with fingers behind back via Shutterstock