What do teenagers lie about?

¿En qué mienten los adolescentes?

Marina F. C. Martins, Carolina F. Carvalho

DOI: https://doi.org/10.22550/REP77-2-2019-07

The lie has been studied in the field of social sciences for several years and from different perspectives. Children and adults have been the most investigated and adolescents the most forgotten. The investigation of psychology and education reveals, independently of the sociocultural aspects, how recourse to lying by adolescents tends to be associated with risk behaviours. Thus, understanding the contexts that trigger its use in adolescence is actively contributing to the prevention of these behaviours. In the present study, we seek to identify what adolescents are lying about; perceive if there are differences between boys and girls regarding the contents of the lie; study the causes and consequences of this behaviour in the adolescent, the next educational community and, finally, reflect on the importance for the educator of looking more deeply at this question. In this work a scale of contents of lies was applied to a sample of 871 Portuguese adolescents between 12 and 18 years of age (mean = 13.8, SD = 1.6). The results show that the lies of Portuguese teenagers are associated with affection, money and health. The results also suggest that the fear of punishment and the shame of admitting publicly their problems, doubts and longings end up throwing them into a whirlwind of feelings of guilt, where they condemn and reprimand themselves, ending up opting for lies, something they recognize as immoral, improper and reprehensible from the social point of view, to the detriment of the truth. The complexity and the consequences sometimes end up not justifying the lie. This work showed a reality that we live in Portugal on a cross-cutting issue for all countries and easily associated with antisocial behaviours that can be prevented with teachable and assertive educational responses.

This is the English version of an article originally printed in Spanish in issue 273 of the revista española de pedagogía. For this reason, the abbreviation EV has been added to the page numbers. Please, cite this article as follows: Martins, M., & Carvalho, C. (2019). ¿En qué mienten los adolescentes? | What do teenagers lie about? Revista Española de Pedagogía, 77 (273), 245-260. doi: https://doi.org/10.22550/REP77-2-2019-07

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Marina F. C. Martins has a Degree in the Teaching of Biology and Geology, a Master's Degree in Education and a PhD in Education. She is a teacher at the Valsassina School and at the Escola Superior de Educação de Lisboa and collaborates with UIDEF (Unidade de Investigação e Desenvolvimento em Educação e Formação [Research and Development Unit in Education and Training]) and GEISEXT (Grupo de Estudo em Sexualidade e Educação Sexual e TIC [Study and Research Group on Sexuality, Sexual Education and ICT]). Her research is focused on moral development, school-family relations and sexual education.


Carolina F. Carvalho has a Degree in Educational Psychology and a PhD in Education. Assistant Professor on the PhD in Education and the Master’s Degree on Education and Teacher Training at the University of Lisbon Institute of Education. She is a researcher at the UIDEF and participates on national and international projects focused on topics such as learning and development, the relationships between the school and the family and teacher training.