Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 123–136

Keeping Secrets from Parents: Advantages and Disadvantages of Secrecy in Adolescence

  • Catrin Finkenauer
  • Rutger C. M. E. Engels
  • Wim Meeus

DOI: 10.1023/A:1014069926507

Cite this article as:
Finkenauer, C., Engels, R.C.M.E. & Meeus, W. Journal of Youth and Adolescence (2002) 31: 123. doi:10.1023/A:1014069926507


Traditional views regard secrecy as problematic, and associated research among adults almost exclusively focuses on its physical and psychological disadvantages for the secret-keeper. Contrary to this negative view on secrecy, this paper proposes that secrecy may have developmental functions that bear particular importance in the period of adolescence. Specifically, it should be associated with adolescents' feeling of emotional autonomy. A cross-sectional study was conducted to examine the links between secrecy and psychosocial well-being and emotional autonomy among 227 younger (12–13 years) and older (16–18 years) adolescents. Results showed that keeping secrets from parents is associated with physical and psychological disadvantages in adolescence. Confirming the prediction, however, secrecy was also related to adolescents' emotional autonomy. The theoretical and empirical implications of our findings are discussed in the context of adolescent development.

secrecy communication psychosocial problems and benefits 

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catrin Finkenauer
    • 1
  • Rutger C. M. E. Engels
    • 2
  • Wim Meeus
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Social PsychologyFree UniversityThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Child and Adolescent StudiesUtrecht UniversityThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Child and Adolescent StudiesUtrecht UniversityThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations