A punitive Environment Fosters Children’s Dishonesty: A Natural Experiment

Purpose o the Study

The purpose of the study was to establish how a punitive environment promotes children’s dishonesty. The research accomplished this by comparing three and four year old children from West Africa. These children were either from punitive or nonpunitive typeof schools in order to determine their behavior in lie telling.

The study accomplished this by leaving them in a room with a toy and by instructing them not to peek the toy. Importantly, core purpose of doing this was to establish the difference in behavior that can be exhibited by children from punitive and from nonpunitive environments (Talwar & Lee, 2011).

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Significantly, the study intended to study the theme of deception which is taken to be a common phenomenon in nature. This is so since all living things right from primates to insects to plants have their devised ways of mimicry and camouflaging in order to avoid their predators in the environment (Talwar & Lee, 2011).

It is understood that that deception is a concealment adaptive strategy that is normally adopted by the weak in the environment to avoid any physical violence. For that matter, the study intended to study deception paradigm through temptation resistance.

Moreover, it has been assumed that punitive environment promotes dishonesty in children but it is an assumption that has never been determined experimentally. For that matter, the study aimed at studying the assumption by experimenting children’s deception behavior while factoring in the natural differences that exists in a West African environment (Talwar & Lee, 2011).

For that case, deceptive behaviors between two different groups of children were used in the study to determine how a punitive environment promotes children’s dishonesty. One group of children was from a punitive school that used stern authoritarian model while the other group was from nonpunitive private school that did not use strict authoritarian model.

Method of the Study

The study used a total sample of eighty four (84) children from schools in West Africa. Children from punitive schools formed half of the sample while the other half came from nonpunitive schools (Talwar & Lee, 2011). This sample was settled on after stratifying the study population into two strata of punitive and nonpunitive.

Importantly, informed consent was sought from all participants who participated in the study. From the two strata in the population, it was established that punitive schools kept log book of their disciplinary practices while the nonpunitive schools did not keep record of their disciplinary practices.

In addition, in terms of the procedure of carrying out the study, the research employed experimental method. This was done by the experimenter observing the behavior of the children in order to determine their dishonesty that resulted from dishonoring instructions given. Consequently, it came out that the school effect was far beyond and significant above the effect of age group.

Result of the study

The results showed that sex did not have any difference hence the sex factor was not considered in the analysis. It was therefore established that the school effect had the biggest determining factor as compared to age and sex (Talwar & Lee, 2011). As a result, the study found out that punitive school contributed 11.78 times in lying than those in nonpunitive school. In addition, the research established that a punitive environment besides making children dishonest, they also make them lie in order to conceal transgressions.

How the Theme of the Study is Relevant to Nature and Nurture

According to Meissner (2009), the behavior of a person is determined hugely by nature and nurture factors that normally present themselves in the growing environment of an individual. These factors involve the innate, inherent and upbringing qualities in the environment.

For that matter, Kassin, Meissner and Norwick (2005) concurs with the study since a punitive environment which fosters children’s dishonesty is part of the nature and nurture factors that a child is raised in. the dishonest behavior exhibited by the children in the study is a clear indication that a flawed character is largely contributed by inherent factors that the child is raised up in.

Moreover, it must be understood that the behavior of the children in the study were completely different depending on the type of the natural factors of the environment that they were raised up and with the nurture factors that presented themselves in the environment.

For instance, the nature factors of one group of children who exhibited high degree of dishonesty were from the public schools. These schools were characterized by harsh conditions as compared to the other half who were from the private schools with relaxed and more comfortable conditions.

Consequently, children from poor background families who were from public schools exhibited high degree of dishonesty. This implies that these nature and nurture environments are determinants of the behavior of an individual. On the other hand, children from private schools are from rich families and their schools again do not provide harsh environment.

For that matter, they demonstrated low degree of dishonest. This is a clear indication that punitive environment fosters children’s dishonesty hence being closely related to nature and nurture factors.

How the Theme of the Study is Relevant to Socio-cultural Context

The degree of dishonesty demonstrated by these two groups of children clearly demonstrates that there is a direct relationship with the socio-cultural context. This is clearly indicated from the punitive environment where by its socio-cultural context is characterized with poor family background.

As indicated in the study, the physical environment is full of hardships which have in turn impacted negatively to children’s behaviour. Moreover, the punitive environment is further characterized with punitive laws and policies that are closely related to the socio-cultural context. This is so since some socio-cultural environments may consist of punitive laws and policies.

On the other hand, none punitive environment is related to a socio-cultural context that is characterized with wealthy families. As demonstrated in the study, nonpunitive environment consists of institutions that do not apply strict disciplinary measures to its pupils as it is the case in punitive environment.

As a result, it is imperative to acknowledge that punitive or non punitive environment is closely related to socio-cultural context that an individual is being nurtured in. For that matter, in the long run, the socio-cultural context determines a child’s behaviour to a large extent.

Follow-up study that I will conduct given the findings of this article

Importantly, from this study, it is significant to come up with a follow up study given its results. For that reason, a study on titled “How Age Influence False Confession” will be important to explore further the behavior demonstrated in the study.

False confession has been elevated in children more than it is to adults. Some studies have been conducted to establish factors that have influence on why people confess falsely (Meissner, 2009). Meissner continued to postulate that two boys aged 7 years and 8 years were charged with murder of an 11 year old girl after they were offered a good meal by their interrogator.

In the latter case, the good meal acted as an inducement for the two boys to false admit to a crime that they had not committed. This explicitly shows that children can be easily influenced by some enticement to plead guilty to cases they have not committed than it is to adults.

In addition, the police officers employ psychological manipulations in their interrogation techniques in order to obtain confession from suspects. It is therefore common knowledge that it is easy for the police officers to manipulate psychological minds of younger children than they will do to an adult (Kassin, Meissner & Norwick, 2005).

The psychological manipulation by the police enables them to drive children to their indented answers which in the process make these children to falsely confess to crimes and acts that they have not done. It is much easier to twist psychological mind of the young ones than adults.

Suggestibility is another factor that brings difference in terms of age in falsely confessing. Interrogators use suggestion techniques in their interrogation. This has always led to internalization of the suggestions given by the officer which results to false confession on part of the victim.

The rate of suggestibility by the police is therefore more effective in children as compared to adults since most children have no mental power to analyze suggestions fronted by the interrogator. This makes them to fall prey of suggestibility hence being victims of false confession to crimes that they have not committed.

Moreover, children by nature are obedient to authority. Interrogators represent authority and therefore in most cases, children falsely confess to them as a sign of obedience. In psychology, obeying authority is a powerful phenomenon which children are taught from their young age and a morally upright child will grow up obeying any figure that represent authority in society (Conti, 1999).

This finally cost them as they incriminate themselves by pleading guilty to crimes they have not committed. For that matter, it is therefore important that a study be carried out on “how age influence false confession”. Therefore, the research question for this study should be “How does age influence false confession in an individual?”

Nonetheless, the methodology for this study should employ a participatory approach of observation of the juvenile from the age of three to the age of five and also of the young adults and elder people. The juveniles should be from elementary school, young adults from post secondary institutions and adults from homes for the elderly. Nonetheless, all these strata should be sampled using random technique in order to be non bias.


Conti, R. (1999). The Psychology of False Confessions. The Journal of Credibility Assessment and Witness Psychology. 2(1), 14-36.

Kassin, M, Meissner, A. & Norwick, J. (2005). I’d know a false confession if I saw one: A comparative study of college students and police investigators. Law & Human Behavior, 29, 211-228.

Meissner, C. (2009) False Confessions. Applied Criminal Psychology: A guide to forensic Behavioral Sciences, 3(12), 191-212.

Talwar, V., & Lee, K. (2011). A punitive environment fosters children’s dishonesty: A natural experiment. Child Development, 82, 1751-1758.


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