London, January 24 (ANI): A study of families in the United States and China has concluded that most parents tell lies to their children as a way of reinforcing desirable social behaviour.
The most common lie is parents threatening to leave children alone in public unless they behaved, the BBC reported.
Children are also told that they would grow taller for every bite of broccoli so as to encourage healthy eating habits.
Parents also lie to their children that they would go blind unless they ate particular vegetables according to the study, published in the International Journal of Psychology.
Researchers from psychology departments at the University of California San Diego in the US, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua in China and the University of Toronto, Canada, examined the use of "instrumental lying" - and found that such tactically-deployed falsehoods were used by an overwhelming majority of parents in both the United States and China - based on interviews with about 200 families.
Another lie that was common in both countries was the "false promise to buy a requested toy at some indefinite time in the future," the study revealed.
The researchers, headed by Gail D. Heymana, Anna S. Hsua, Genyue Fub and Kang Leeac, have established different categories of these untruths.
Under the category of "Untrue statements related to leaving or staying" a parent was recorded as saying: "If you don't follow me, a kidnapper will come to kidnap you while I'm gone."
There were also lies motivated by protecting a child's feelings - labelled as "Untrue statements related to positive feelings."
This included the optimistic: "Your pet went to live on your uncle's farm where he will have more space to run around."
A rather self-serving untruth was used for a quick getaway from a toy shop: ''I did not bring money with me today. We can come back another day."
Although levels of such "instrumental lying" were high in both countries, they were highest in China, according to researchers.
The researchers concluded that the study raises "important moral questions for parents about when, if ever, parental lying is justified". (ANI)