Summary

The status of child witnesses has improved considerably in the last 20 years. Modern psychological research shows that although most children under 3 years of age lack the cognitive capacities to be competent witnesses, many older children are able to produce useful evidential information provided they are questioned competently. To make full use of what children can remember, they need to be allowed to talk in a comfortable setting, guided by professionals who are sensitive to developmental issues and aware of legal constraints. Child witnesses have often been traumatized by their experience. It is important that further distress caused by appearing in court is kept to a minimum and that children who need therapeutic help to deal with their trauma are not denied access to this in the pretrial period.

Further reading

Ceci, S.J. and Bruck, M. (1993). Suggestibility of the child witness: a historical review and synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 113, 403-39.

Flin, R. and Spencer, J.R. (1995). Annotation: children as witnesses—legal and psychological perspectives. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 36, 171-89. Fundudis, T. (1997). Young children's memory: how good is it? How much do we know about it? Child Psychology and Psychiatry Review, 2, 150-8.

Johnson, E.K. and Howell, R.J. (1993). Memory processes in children: implications for investigations of alleged sexual abuse. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law, 21, 213-26. Lamb, M.E. and Sternberg, K.J. (1998). Conducting investigative interviews of alleged sexual abuse victims. Child Abuse and Neglect, 22, 813-23. Saywitz, K. and Camparo, L. (1998). Interviewing child witnesses: a developmental perspective. Child Abuse and Neglect, 22, 825-43. Chapter References

1. Whipple, G.M. (1911). The psychology of testimony. Psychological Bulletin, 8, 307-9.

2. Johnson, E.K. and Howell, R.J. (1993). Memory processes in children: implications for investigations of alleged sexual abuse. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law, 21, 213-26.

3. Fundudis, T. (1997). Young children's memory: how good is it? How much do we know about it? Child Psychology and Psychiatry Review, 2, 150-8.

4. Nurcombe, B. (1986). The child as witness: competency and credibility. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 25, 473-80.

5. Flin, R., Boon, J., Knox, A., and Bull, R. (1992). The effect of a five month delay on children's and adults' eyewitness memory. British Journal of Psychology, 83, 323-36.

6. Terr, L.C. (1986). The child psychiatrist and the child witness: traveling companions by necessity, if not by design. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 25, 462-72.

7. Benedek, E.P. and Schetky, D.H. (1986). The child as witness. Hospital and Community Psychiatry, 37, 1225-9.

8. Ceci, S.J. and Bruck, M. (1993). Suggestibility of the child witness: a historical review and synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 113, 403-39.

9. Lamb, M.E. and Sternberg, K.J. (1998). Conducting investigative interviews of alleged sexual abuse victims. Child Abuse and Neglect, 22, 813-23.

10. Poole, D.A. and White, L.T. (1991). Effects of question repetition on the eyewitness testimony of children and adults. Developmental Psychology, 27, 975-86.

11. Kolhberg, L. (1969). Stage and sequence: the cognitive-developmental approach to socialization. In Handbook of socialization theory and research (ed. D.A. Goslin), pp. 97-9. Rand McNally, Chicago, IL.

12. Flin, R. and Spencer, J.R. (1995). Annotation: children as witnesses—legal and psychological perspectives. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 36, 171-89.

13. Pynoos, R.S. and Eth, S. (1986). The child as witness to homicide. Journal of Social Issues, 40, 109-23.

14. Saywitz, K. and Camparo, L. (1998). Interviewing child witnesses: a developmental perspective. Child Abuse and Neglect, 22, 825-43.

15. Home Office and Department of Health (1992). Memorandum of good practice on video recorded interviews with child witnesses for criminal proceedings. HMSO, London.

16. American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (1990). Guidelines for psychosocial evaluation of suspected sexual abuse in young children. APSAC, Chicago, IL.

17. Williams, G.A. (1998). Video technology and children's evidence: international perspectives and recent research. Medicine and Law, 17, 263-81.

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