What parents don't know and how it may affect their children: Qualifying the disclosure-adjustment link

Tom Frijns, Loes Keijsers, Susan Branje, Wim Meeus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

137 Citations (Scopus)


Recent research has identified adolescent disclosure to parents as a powerful predictor of adolescent adjustment. We propose, however, that the common operationalization of adolescent disclosure incorporates the two separate constructs of disclosure and secrecy, and predicted that the disclosure-adjustment link can largely be explained by the unique contribution of secrecy from parents. A four-wave survey study among 309 adolescents tested these predictions. Factor analyses confirmed that disclosure and secrecy should be distinguished as two separate constructs. Moreover, in cross-lagged path analyses, only secrecy was a longitudinal predictor of adolescent internalizing (i.e., depression) and externalizing (i.e., delinquency) problems, disclosure was not. Secrecy consistently contributed to the longitudinal prediction of delinquency from early to middle adolescence, whereas it contributed to the prediction of depression only in early adolescence. Findings thus attest the importance of distinguishing between disclosure and secrecy and suggest that the disclosure-adjustment link may actually reflect a secrecy-maladjustment link.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-270
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior/psychology
  • Depression/diagnosis
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency/psychology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Netherlands
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parents
  • Psychology, Adolescent
  • Self Disclosure
  • Social Adjustment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Truth Disclosure


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