Revealing family secrets: The influence of topic, function, and relationships

Anita L. Vangelisti, John P. Caughlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nearly every family has secrets. Some of these secrets are told; others are carefully hidden. Why is it that some people reveal their family secrets while others choose to conceal them? Two studies were conducted to investigate this issue by examining the association between the likelihood of revealing family secrets and (a) the topic of the secret, (b) the function of the secret, (c) satisfaction with one's family, and (d) the quality of the relationship with the potential target of the revelation. The correspondence between the number and function of family secrets and family satisfaction was also investigated. The data suggested that the function of secrets, family satisfaction, and the relationship people had with the target of their disclosure were related to whether family members were likely to reveal their secrets. The link between secret topic and the tendency to reveal secrets was unreliable, but there was an association between family members' perceptions of topic intimacy and the likelihood of revealing secrets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)679-705
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Disclosure
  • Family secrets
  • Secrecy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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