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Authority, Autonomy, and Deception: Evaluating the Legitimacy of Parental Authority and Adolescent Deceit

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Journal of Research on Adolescence

Published online on


This research examined adolescents’ judgments about lying to avoid parental control over different types of activities. Participants (N = 66, Mage = 16.38, 73% European American) were interviewed about hypothetical situations describing adolescents who defied parental directives and lied about their defiance. Judgments about the legitimacy of parents’ directives and protagonists’ deception differed by types of parent relationship with adolescents (mutual or unilateral). Directives were least accepted, and deception was most accepted, in the context of unilateral relationships. Judgments also differed by domain of the action (personal, prudential, or conventional). Participants were least accepting of parental directives, and most accepting of deception about personal activities. Findings indicate that adolescents value honesty and parental authority, but sometimes give priority to concerns with autonomy and mutuality.