What You Don't Know Might Hurt Me: Keeping Secrets in Interpersonal Relationships

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats



Despite being an interpersonal phenomenon, secrecy has not been extensively studied within the context of interpersonal relationships. This study examined how relationship quality and the target’s connection to the secret relate to the experience of concealing a personal secret. Participants (n = 249) completed an online questionnaire on which they described and answered questions about an actual personal secret that they are keeping from someone else. Keeping a secret was rated as more detrimental to participants’ perceived well-being when it involved high effort and difficulty, frequent rumination, and expectations of negative consequences should it be revealed. The burden of keeping a secret was compounded when the information was directly relevant to and could negatively affect the target. Relationship quality was not related to the secret’s perceived impact on well-being, but participants in high-quality relationships did expect the target to perceive the information more positively. Additional analyses explored how the experience of keeping a secret is moderated by attachment styles, fear of negative evaluation, and interpersonal trust. These results highlight the importance of expanding the research focus beyond the secret-keeper and emphasizing the broader relationship context.





Bedrov, Alisa (2019). What You Don't Know Might Hurt Me: Keeping Secrets in Interpersonal Relationships. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/18350.

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.