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Keywords:

  • secrets keeping;
  • secret-holders;
  • secrets disclosure

Abstract

This longitudinal study examines secrets keeping and disclosure. College students filled in two questionnaires, with a 4 months time span in between. Their psychological and physical wellbeing was investigated, together with self-esteem, the topic and some characteristics of their most important secret (if they had a secret), reasons for having the secret, to whom they confide the secret, how they felt about confiding, and whether they thought that their behaviour would reveal that they kept a secret when they talked with someone who is not aware of their secret.

The findings showed that total secrecy was rare, and that most secret-holders had informed at least one other person about their secret. Moreover, the findings challenge the view that secrets keeping has negative effects on secret-holders. Results revealed some negative effects, but only when the secret was serious. No positive effects were found for secrets disclosure.

Secret-holders confided information to those with whom they felt emotionally close; were more reluctant to confide when they kept the secret to avoid disapproval, and more likely to confide when they believed that others would find out about their secrets by paying attention to their (secret-holders) behaviour. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.