On the Immorality of Lying to Children About Their Origins

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2011

Publication Title

Philosophy in the Contemporary World


Using the moral work on trust and lying, I argue that allowing or encouraging children to believe you are their biological parent when you are not is a breach of trust in the parent-child relationship. While other approaches focus on specific harms or the rights of the child, I make a virtue theory argument based on our understanding of trust, lies, and the nature of the parent-child relationship. Drawing heavily on Nancy Potter's virtue theory of trustworthiness, I consider the nature of trust in the parent-child relationship and what this means for being a trustworthy parent.