Why Do Kids Lie?

The art of lying isn't unique to people, but as kids get older their reasons for deception change.

Experts say when children are younger, lying is about avoiding punishment, while at an older age, it becomes about adapting socially with their peers or parents.

Nancy Darling, associate professor of psychology at Oberlin College in Ohio, conducted a study to assess the extent of lying in children and teens. She found 98 percent of teenagers have lied to their parents about everything from friends, dating and drugs.

"They lied mostly because [they] tried to protect their parents from being worried," Darling said. "Kids lie to avoid an argument with parents."

A research video obtained by ABC's "Primetime" mirrored Darling's results. In this study, 3-year-olds where given unsweetened, bitter chocolate and were told to pretend it tasted good.

The children, whose young faces often betrayed their lies, said they liked the chocolate. But, one boy refused a second helping after saying he liked it — possibly a telltale sign of an untruth.

Older children in the experiment were smoother at lying. A 9-year-old boy's expressions and words made a good case for him liking the chocolate.

In another project, children were videotaped as they cheated on exams. When they were confronted about it, none of the participants admitted to the deception.

Parental Role

Some think parents also play a role in their children's lying patterns.

"Parents in social interactions will lie about ? once a day," said New York Magazine writer Po Bronson. "Kids are around to hear that and they pick up on disingenuousness."

Experts advised that parents should reward children for being honest and not punish them for lying as the most effective curtail their deceptions.

"Kids lie much less when parents set rules about problem behaviors, manners," Darling said.