Should Children Be Allowed To Testify In Court?

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Should Children Be Allowed To Testify In Court? Over the past ten years, more research has been done involving children's testimony than that of all the prior decades combined. Ceci & Bruck (93) have cited four reasons for this : - The opinion of psychology experts is increasingly being accepted by courts as testimony, - Social research is more commonly being applied to the issues of children's rights, - More research into adult suggestibility in accordance with reason naturally leads to more research into child suggestibility, - Children are more commonly being used as witnesses in cases where they are directly involved (i.e. sexual abuses cases), requiring the development of better ways for dealing with them as special cases. Some psychologists deem children to be “Highly resistant to suggestion, as unlikely to lie, and as reliable as adult witnesses about acts perpetrated on their bodies” (Ceci & Bruck 1993). However, children are also described as “ Having difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy, as being susceptible to coaching by powerful authority figures, and therefore as being potentially less reliable than adults” (Ceci & Bruck 1993). The suggestibility of child witnesses, the effects of participation on children's reports, and the effects of postevent information on a prior memory representation must be taken into account when it comes to seeking answers to the reliability of their testimony, especially because sexual abuse and sexual assault cases are a big part of children's testimony and they are often the only witness. Those psychologists who feel that children can be rated as “Highly resistant to suggestion....” etc. seem to have a good argument, whereas those who take the opposite view also seem to have just as valid an argument. Which psychologists are right? Maybe both. It seems that without outside influences, social encounters, or other interference's, children's testimony has the potential to be quite valid. This is under ideal situations, however, which unfortunately rarely occur. One of the major problems when assessing the validity of child witnesses is the suggestibility of the child. Ceci & Bruck (1993) define suggestibility as “The degree to which children's encoding, storage, retrieval, and reporting of events can be influenced by a range of social an... ... middle of paper ... ...t that no children should be allowed to testify on account of the malleability of their recollection. However, children can play a vital role in the legal system, and indeed there are many cases in which a child is the only witness to a crime, but until the time that sufficient research has been done to achieve a system of questioning that will eliminate the suggestibility and social aspects of a child's testimony, all such testimonies should be treated with caution. Works Cited: Bernstein, D. A., Roy, E. J., Srull, T. K., Wickens, C. D. (1994) Psychology, 3rd edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, MA. Ceci, S & Bruck, M. (1993). Suggestibility of the Child Witness: A Historical Review and Synthesis, Psychological Bulletin. 113, 403 - 439 Lefrancois, G. R. (1992). Psychology, 2nd edition. Wadsworth Publishing Company. California. Luus, C. A. E., Wells, G. L., & Turtle, J. W. (1995). Child eyewitnesses: Seeing is believing. Journal of Applied Psychology, 80, 317 - 326 Rovee-Collier, C. et al. (1993). Infants Eyewitness Testimony: Effects of Postevent Information on a Prior Memory Representaion, Memory and Cognition, 21, 267 - 279

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