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Keywords:

  • deception;
  • socialization;
  • morality

Abstract

While honesty is noticeably emphasized in Chinese childrearing practices, deception for the sake of collective good and maintenance of interpersonal relationship is widely endorsed by Chinese culture. This study examines how Chinese mothers negotiate between teaching honesty and helping their young children develop situational-appropriate deceptive skills in the everyday context. Forty 4-year olds and their mothers from Chinese working-class families were observed in their daily routines. The results suggest that on the one hand, Chinese mothers actively taught the value of honesty in the daily interactions with their young children by frequently initiating interactions related to it, spending longer time talking about it, and responding to their children's transgressions immediately, as well as using positive and negative examples to show the consequences of being honest and telling lies. On the other hand, the mothers used their own interactions with others to model how to use situational-appropriate deception to maintain harmonious inter-personal relationships and avoid conflicts. The mothers’ beliefs about teaching honesty and using situational-appropriate deception were further examined through their responses to the video vignettes of other people's violation of honesty. This study highlights the multifaceted nature of parental moral socialization.