Literature Review of the Reliability of Children as Eyewitnesses

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Evidence provided in many courtroom cases can range from DNA samples, eyewitness testimony and video-recordings, to name a few. What happens when one of the main sources of information in a case comes from a child? Even worse, what if the child is the victim in the case? The topic of children participating and providing testimony in courtroom settings is an image that, presumably, most would not associate as a “usual” place for children. Yet in cases such as sexual abuse or violence towards a child or within the child’s family, it is not impossible to have cases where children are the predominant source of information provided for judges and jurors. Ref It is then important to consider the reliability of children’s testimonial accounts much like how adult testimonies are examined. The question of focus is then, to what extent can we rely on child eyewitnesses? Specifically, what factors influence the veracity of their testimonies? Children as Witnesses Involvement of Children in the Justice System This question becomes more imperative when considering the increase in frequency of children involved with the legal system. According to Statistics Canada, from 2004-2009, family violence allegedly victimized 18, 710 children under the age of 17 (Sinha, 2012). In the same article, children were also reported to have witnessed an increased amount of spousal violence in their homes, such that the proportion of spousal victims with children increased from 43 percent to 52 percent. Sinha (2012) also stated that out of the reported victims of spousal violence in 2009, 39 percent would involve officials in the matter due to the presence of a child witness versus 10 percent of victims with no child witness. These statistics alone account... ... middle of paper ... ...& J.A. Quas (Eds.) Memory and suggestibility in the forensic interview. Mahwah, MJ:Lawrence Erlbaum. Regan, P.C. & Baker, S.J. (1998). The impact of child witness demeanor on perceived credibility and trial outcome in sexual abuse cases. Journal of Family Violence, 13(2), 187-195. Roebers, C.M., Moga, N., & Schneider, W. (2001). The role of accuracy motivation on children’s and adults’ event recall. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 78, 313-329. Sinha, M. (2012). Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2010. Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2012001/article/11643-eng.pdf Zajac, R. & Hayne H. (2003). I don’t think that’s what really happened: The effect of cross-examination on the accuracy of children’s repots. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 9, 187-195.

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