Shared secrets versus secrets kept private are linked to better adolescent adjustment

Tom Frijns, Catrin Finkenauer, Loes Keijsers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


It is a household notion that secrecy is bad while sharing is good. But what about shared secrets? The present research adopts a functional analysis of sharing secrets, arguing that it should negate harmful consequences generally associated with secrecy and serves important interpersonal functions in adolescence. A survey study among 790 Dutch adolescents showed that, in line with hypotheses, shared secrets (1) were kept by more adolescents than private secrets, (2) were not linked to maladjustment and (3) were linked to higher interpersonal functioning. Whereas private secrecy was associated with increased delinquency, physical complaints, depressive mood, loneliness, and with lower quality relationships, shared secrecy was associated only with more interpersonal competence. Moreover, sharing a secret was specifically linked to a higher quality relationship with the confidant, and sharing with parents was linked with less delinquency, whereas sharing with a best friend was linked with less loneliness and more interpersonal competence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-64
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Confidentiality
  • Female
  • Friends
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations


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