Kids who lie to their parents are more likely to drink alcohol underage. They’re also more likely to become alcohol abusers later in life. A very recent study, published in the Journal of Adolescence, has proven this. The study also proves that it’s the same the other way around. In other words, trusting, supportive parents yield children that are less likely to lie, and are less likely to abuse alcohol.

Just don’t be overbearing, for that may breed kids that lie and drink.

teens drinking

Whether or not you the reader have children, it’s plain to see how it can be tricky to raise honest and sober kids. No guidebook exists for parenting. However, the Journal of Adolescence study is a good start, as it shows a correlation between kids lying and kids abusing alcohol. The study also reveals some interesting information on the connection between child-parent relationships and something the researchers call “monitoring knowledge.”

The Study

The study was performed by a research team from both New York University and the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Russia. A total of 4,020 American students, from either seventh or eighth grade, were included. In essence, the experiment part of the study consisted of only two steps.

First, the researchers evaluated each participant’s “child-parent relationships for openness and trust, with a particular focus on any examples of lying and hiding information,” according to Medical Xpress. Through interviews with the mothers of participants included, the researchers recorded occurrences of the children lying to and/or withholding information from their parents. All identities were kept confidential, and all answers anonymous, helping to ensure honest responses.

Second, the participants “…listened to audio recordings of questions and responded confidentially,” according to the article linked above. These questions were about alcohol consumption. The children were asked if they had ever drank, how often they drink if they do, and many other supplemental questions.

After a cross examination of the data from these two steps, the researchers concluded that “(1) dishonesty promotes future alcohol use by decreasing parental monitoring knowledge, and (2) dishonesty directly predicts alcohol consumption independent of its effects on parental monitoring,” according to the study in the first link.

Let’s break down what that two-part sentence really means. Also let’s talk about what can be done to prevent underage drinking, especially in the wake of what this study has proven: children who lie to their parents are more likely to abuse alcohol, both now and in the future.

Monitoring Knowledge

No parent can know everything that happens in a child’s life. What they do know, provided it’s true, is called monitoring knowledge. The majority of this knowledge comes from what children tell their parents. Here’s where it gets a little tricky.

As quoted from a study published in 2013 in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, Whereas a debate continues in the literature regarding the best definition of ‘monitoring,’ many agree that parental knowledge of their children’s activities is the critical endpoint in preventing youth risk behavior: how parents get such knowledge, and how adolescents come to perceive how much and what their parents know, remains controversial.”

We’ve all been a child and had a secret to keep from one of our parents, whether it was that you had a friend over when you weren’t supposed to or that you stole from your mom’s purse. Regardless of the ‘crime,’ as children we always wondered how much our parents knew, and how much we should say. When it comes to the alcohol abuse of a seventh-grader, the ‘crime’ is much worse, and the parents aren’t always likely to get the truth.

Still, no matter how parents acquire monitoring knowledge, the important part is to have the knowledge. Be as aware of your child’s behavior and activity as possible. It’s not just underage drinking that could be prevented. From the same study linked directly above:

“Research has consistently found that parental monitoring of adolescent peer environments has a strong influence on their children’s engagement in a range of other risky behaviors, including delinquency, risky sexual behavior, substance use, and low school achievement.”

Results and Implications

The Journal of Adolescence study, the first ever to cross examine adolescent lying with adolescent alcohol use, revealed more than the fact that kids who lie will drink more alcohol. However, let’s start there as we discuss the results of this monumentally important study – if not just to show how truly important its results and implications are.

According to StudyFinds, “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.”

One might ask why this is the case. Co-author Victor Kaploun says, “Adolescence is the age at which children in our societies work hard to develop their skills of autonomy. 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 behaviors are interconnected, while excessive parental control can be counterproductive.”

It is with Kaploun’s final statement that it becomes clear the study showed more than the fact that lying kids drink more. The study revealed two other things, both of which are far more important.

  1. Truth-Telling Kids Drink Less Alcohol

If kids who lie to their parents are more susceptible to drinking problems, then kids who tell their parents the truth are less susceptible. So how do you, as a parent, get your kid(s) to tell you the truth about their social lives? Well, if you’re strictly going by the study, then it’s to be supportive and trustworthy.

The StudyFinds article says “…having a supportive and trusting relationship with parents made teens less likely to lie and less likely to abuse alcohol in the future.” Show support, stop the lies, stop the boozing. If a child can be open with his or her parents, and he or she chooses to drink, then it’s rather likely the parent will know about it. If a child consistently lies to his or her parents, then the truth about that child’s substance abuse will likely never be known by the parent.

So, in order to not have your child lie to you, show support and be both trustworthy and trusting. Once your child consistently tells you the truth, he or she becomes less likely to abuse alcohol. All the while, make sure you maintain monitoring knowledge, so that you are aware of what’s going on with your child when he or she is not around.

Just don’t be overbearing…

  1. Overbearing Parents Produce Liars and Drinkers

Alright, that’s a blanket statement, but it’s based on a simple truth. Over-restrictive parenting makes children far more likely to lie than more lenient parenting does. Just imagine a set of parents constantly monitoring their child by using Find my iPhone, calling other parents, constantly checking up, maybe not always believing the child’s stories. That child would feel very pressured, and may begin to actually lose trust in his or her parents. That’s when the lies begin, and with lies comes a stronger tendency to abuse substances.

Quoted from the StudyFinds article, “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.”

‘Helicopter parents’ is such an excellent term. They tend to hover, so to speak. This type of parenting might seem harmless, even helpful, but in fact it can be quite damaging to children. According to UK-based newspaper The Independent, helicopter parenting can cause lifelong psychological damage, low happiness levels, and even a negatively impacted overall wellbeing. When it comes to parenting, Dr. Mai Stafford of University College London says, “…warmth and responsiveness has been shown to promote social and emotional development. By contrast, psychological control can limit a child’s independence and leave them less able to regulate their own behavior.”

So, monitor your children, but not too closely, and make sure to support them and trust them, and be trustworthy yourself. Then and only then will your children not lie and stay sober. Obviously this is not accurate. However, there is definitely some truth to it. [Plus, this writer is a parent, and can tell you firsthand this is easier said than done!]

Once Kids Lie, Parents Can’t Help

Perhaps the worst part about a child consistently lying to his or her parents is the fact that is becomes habit. Say a child has begun to use alcohol and lies about it. The child is honing their lying skills, and is hiding information they see as undesirable to the parents. If that same child were to have always felt that NO information is undesirable, then perhaps he or she would never have lied about drinking in the first place. Or, better yet, he or she may never have started drinking at all since he or she would have talked about it with his or her parents beforehand.

So, once a child becomes an expert liar, and feels no desire to tell the truth about anything taboo, a breeding ground for substance abuse is created. This may sound drastic, but it’s true. One of the healthiest things for a child is to feel comfortable discussing anything and everything with his or her parents.

Peer Pressure and Acceptance

One last thing the Journal of Adolescence study discovered was something everybody knows, but wasn’t quite published in a journal yet. It’s that who kids hang around with makes a difference in their drinking habits as well as their lying habits. Essentially, it’s a specific form of peer pressure.

Approximately 30% of children are offered drugs before graduating high school. Three out of four children try alcohol before graduation. Over 3 million children smoke cigarettes. Over half of children under 18 have had sex. Who knows how these statistics would change if peer pressure was taken out of the equation? It’s a potent thing, peer pressure, and it’s everywhere. If you’re a parent, be careful who your children spend the majority of their time with away from home.

The want to be accepted is similar to peer pressure, except that it comes with no provocation. Each and every person wants to be accepted. Regarding children and risky behaviors, it depends on who the child wants acceptance from.

Last month, a 13-year-old boy from England nearly died from alcohol poisoning. He had been taking excessive vodka shots at school in order to feel accepted. According to most sources, there was no peer pressure involved.

If you or a loved one is the parent of a child who you suspect may be abusing alcohol, please contact us today. Don’t wait. Act now.