Lying, Cheating, and Self-Embedding

If you take the 2008 summary of survey results by the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics, it looks like a large number of adolescents flat out embrace lying.

The teen years just seem to get harder and harder, don’t they?

Sometimes I’ll peak in while my daughter is doing her homework and find her sketching when she is supposed to be multiplying. “Are you finishing your math?” I ask. “Oh, yes,” she assures me, using her most earnest tone. “I’m almost done.” She’s 8-years-old. Kids learn to fib at a very young age, and some of them don’t outgrow it.

In fact, if you take the 2008 summary of survey results by the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics, it looks like a large number of adolescents flat out embrace lying. Stealing and cheating are also on the rise in American kids across the board, and parents may be surprised to know that children who attend religious schools report a higher rate of lying and cheating than their peers in non-religious, independent schools, and roughly the same as those in public schools.

Really, everyone should look at these numbers and dedicate some thought as to what kind of messages children are getting, and from whom. If up to 70% report that they cheat on tests and 93% say they are satisfied with their personal ethics, America has a character problem to address.

In another interesting twist to the adolescent saga, the Radiological Society of North America is reporting a unique phenomenon among teens, in which they are introducing one or more objects into a self-inflicted wound. This behavior has been dubbed “self-embedding disorder” (SED), and like other self-injurious behaviors, appears to be much more prevalent among girls than boys.

Although the RSNA reports that SED does not seem to be associated with suicidal intent, I still find the nature of the injury a disturbing twist to the self-injury behaviors we’re used to seeing. The whole idea of burying something in your body adds permanence to the injury (one girl self-embedded 11 items in various parts of her body, including a large, unfolded metal paper clip), so it leaves me wondering if there’s more to this behavior than what we understand about practices like cutting and burning.

Regardless, radiologists appear to be prime for detection of this behavior, and if you have patients that practice cutting or other types of self-harm, this is a potential problem that you should be aware of in those cases.

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