Children’s Testimonies

Every year some hundreds of thousands of children may be involved in the legal system.Most encounters have been with sexual assault cases.Although some children may be capable of giving an accurate testimony most are vulnerable to having their testimony and their memories distorted to the point where the truth may never be known.Children have problems distinguishing reality from fantasy, making them susceptible to the coaching of an authority figure.
Award winning development psychologist Stephen J. Ceci, Ph.D., of Cornell University has conducted a laboratory research, studying some factors that can affect a child;s testimony.These conclude:
 Interviewer bias-When the interviewer (parent, therapist, investigator) believes he or she knows what happened and attempts to get the child to confirm it, ignoring anything the child says that does not conform with the interviewer;s bias and encouraging anything that does.
 Repeated Questions-Children, especially younger children are more likely to change their answers when asked the same yes or no question repeated during a single interview.Answers from children to yes or no questions repeated over several interviews are likely to become more firm and confident, regardless of whether they are correct.
 Stereotype induction-Children;s reports can be influenced by stereotypes suggested by the interviewer (or by others before the interview takes place).An interviewer telling a child that the [suspect] is a bad man who does bad things is an example of stereotype induction.Similarly, children can come to assume and report bad things about someone they had previously heard described in negative terms.
 Encouragement to imagine and visualize-When asked to ;think real hard; about or to visualize events they don;t remember, children can come to ;remember; and then present a detailed, coherent narrative of even…

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