Sharing Secrets Improves Teen Well-Being

Jim Liebelt | Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University | Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sharing Secrets Improves Teen Well-Being

Teens who share their secrets in confidence with parents and friends have fewer headaches and depressed moods and are more confident in social situations than others who keep secrets to themselves, according to a new study published in the Journal of Adolescence.

Researchers worked with nearly 800 boys and girls, ages 14 to 19, from five schools in the Netherlands. Most came from two-parent families. The teens reported on questionnaires if they had a private secret that they never talked about, how long they had kept the secret, if the information was known to others and how difficult it was to keep or reveal the secret.

The students also answered questions about secrets they had shared. Separate tests assessed the frequency of headaches, depressed moods and feelings of loneliness. Relationships and social skills were self-rated.

About 79% of the participants said they had at least one shared or private secret. Secrecy was more prevalent in girls than boys: 82% of girls shared secrets compared with 54% of boys, while 38% of girls and 29% of boys had private secrets. About two-thirds of shared secrets were told to best friends. Other confidants included mothers, fathers, teachers, neighbors and parents of friends.

Compared with those who shared secrets, students who kept private secrets tended to have more rule-breaking behaviors, physical complaints, low moods and poor-quality relationships. Researchers said the findings suggest that sharing secrets is an important skill in creating and maintaining close personal relationships. Because they have more shared secrets, girls may reap the benefits of sharing more than boys, researchers said.

Source: Wall Street Journal