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  1. 1. April 20, 2015 Do Children Make Effective Witnesses? Jennifer A. Weber Student Psychologist Argosy University Master’s Program
  2. 2. Today’s Presentation Synopsis Research-purpose and design. History Methodology/Psychological Theory. Landmark Cases Ethical Considerations Analysis Validity/Reliability Research Tools/Assessments Case Study Example Themes and Patterns Professional Opinion Limitations/Gaps Future Research Conclusion
  3. 3. Synopsis ✤ Children are becoming witnesses in court proceedings from the rising divorce rates and the increase in number of child abuse and neglect cases; therefore the need to put them on the stand is increasing whether to testifying as the victim or in the determination of custody.
  4. 4. April 20, 2015 Research-Design and Purpose Do preschoolers and young children make effective witnesses when testifying in court allowing for freely giving narratives that have not benefited from suggestibility, coaching, false memory or confabulation? Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics for the year 2000 show that 67% of sexual assault victims where under the age of 18, 34% under the age of 12, and sadly that one out of seven victims are less than 6 years old. Data from the American Psychological Association report that 40-50% of marriages end in divorce. Given the above this power point presentation will examine and explore the role of the child witness, the effects of testifying on children, and whether or not the testimony is evidence.
  5. 5. History ✤ The United States Court System was created and developed on several checks and balances in the hopes of equal justice for all in that the rights of the defendants and victims are protected and maintained throughout the judicial process, yet during the 70’s child abuse convictions turned out to be miscarriages of justices based on faulty investigative and interview techniques resulting in the disbelief of children’s claims of maltreatment (Dallam & Silberg, 2014).
  6. 6. April 20, 2015 Methodology/Psychological Theory Research on how effective child testimony is in the court system was gathered by completing a literature review of peer-reviewed scholars articles along with a personal interview with a field expert. Developmental theory were moral maturity is determined by the way an individual reasons about a dilemma and not necessarily the response to the situation (Beck, 2011). Kohlberg believes that children accept rules and that their behaviors are determined by the consequences progressing towards increased awareness of other perspectives including reciprocity (Beck, 2011).
  7. 7. Landmark Cases ✤ Kelly Michaels, a day care teacher, was accused of several accounts of child sexual abuse against children three to six years of age in the early eighties while employed by the Wee Care Nursery School located in Maplewood, New Jersey, that resulted in a conviction with a 47 year sentence (Manning, 2007). ✤ Eventually her case was overturned because the courts found the children were improperly interviewed with findings that the investigators misled, coerced, frightened, bullied and even bribed the children (Manning, 2007).
  8. 8. Ethical Considerations- evaluations of children remain very difficult due to the very sensitive nature of the subject material of child maltreatment and custody disputes along with ensuring appropriate interview techniques that will harness the truth without being leading, suggestible, or threatening. ✤ Appropriate Guidelines to Consider ✤ 1.02 Conflicts Betweens Ethics and Law, Regulations, or Other Governing Legal Authority ✤ 3.04 Avoiding Harm ✤ 3.05 Multiple Relationships ✤ 3.10 Informed Consent ✤ 3.11 Psychological Services Delivered to or Through Organizations ✤ 4.02 Discussing the Limits of Confidentiality ✤ 4.03 Recording ✤ 9.1 Bases for Assessments ✤ 9.02 Use of Assessments ✤ 9.03 Informed Consent in Assessments ✤ 9.04 Release of Test Data (Fisher, 2013)
  9. 9. Analysis ✤ Tsilmak (2013) notes that children between 3.5 and 4 years of age will begin telling lies to avoid punishment and self protection. ✤ Dallam & Silberg note that suggestibility to changing an existing memory is more likely than planting a memory of an event that did not take place (2014). ✤ Decades of research on children memories has demonstrated that a child can be an accurate and reliable witness, and even preschoolers can report their experiences with detailed and accurate accounts (Malloy, Johnson, & Goodman 2013).
  10. 10. Analysis - Continued ✤ Testimony by young witnesses is affected by cognitive, social, and emotional factors in the sense that children cannot report what they do not remember (Crossman, Powell, Principe, & Ceci, 2002). ✤ Development of memory is central to the child’s testimony because the accuracy depends on the child’s abilities to recall and remember events; therefore, consideration of age, maturity, and capacity of the child all need to be taken into account when giving weight to their voice (Ball & Kucinski, 2014; Crossman, Powell, Principe, & Ceci, 2002).
  11. 11. Analysis-Continued ✤ Otgaar, Sauerland, & Petrila (2013) suggest that there is a phenomenon of false memories and suggestibility that remains intertwined with basic cognitions that once again relates back to the cognitive and developmental level of the testifying child. ✤ The lesser the developmental age of the child and the lower the cognitive status of the child the more likely the child will be suggestible to altering memories of events.
  12. 12. Validity/Reliability ✤ Overall, the validity and reliability of the chosen resources ran from weak to good in that some sources had similar theories backing the research questions, a few actually had empirical data and statistics, and some lack statistics to back their conclusion with outcome similarities.
  13. 13. April 20, 2015 Research Tools/Assessments One tool the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale for Children, version 2, has two scales for older children that measure suggestibility: yield (measure of willingness to acquiesce to misleading questions) and shift (measure of tendency to change their responses to negative feedback) (Miles, Powell, Gignac, & Thomson, 2007) The Do’s- let the child lead the conversation, answer questions to the best of your ability, and encourage child to use their words to tell the story. The Don’ts- no probing questions, respond negatively or threaten to harm the abuser
  14. 14. Case Study ✤ It all started with one little boy visiting his pediatrician telling a story about his teacher from the Wee Care Day Care that resulting in an investigation by an over zealous investigator named Lou Fonolleras and a child therapist that held meetings to initiate discussion of sexual abuse along with sending home charts of behaviors corollated to sexual abuse (Blackstone, 2009). ✤ Several children confessed to allegations of sexual abuse because of Fonolleras sharing his history of sexual abuse, telling the children that their teacher Kelly Michaels was in jail for being bad, and using positive reinforcement for desired answers that lead to a conviction with a 47 year sentence for Kelly Michaels (Blackstone, 2009). ✤ Case was overturned due to high volume of unrecorded testimony of improper interviewing techniques that lead to suggestibility in children (Blackstone, 2009).
  15. 15. Themes and Patterns ✤ Running themes in similarity are asking children difficult questions where the child is usually the only witness against an adult defendant, and remaining cognizant of the child’s abilities and limitations (Ball & Kuckinski, 2014; Malloy, Johnson, & Goodman, 2013; Vandervort, 2013). ✤ Another commonality showed that cognitive skills increase with age, children have a limited capacity to handle the event and incoming information, and that unfounded allegations can be determined (Brown, et. al, 2013; Crossman, Powel, Principe, & Ceci, 2002).
  16. 16. Themes and Patterns-continued ✤ Differences noted by Otgaar, Sauerland, and Petrila (2013) describe suggestibility as suggestive pressure, implantation can be more pronounced in younger children while other authors believe that events cannot be implanted. ✤ Brown, et. al, focus on confabulation verses liars by reviewing fragments of memory especially in early childhood, inaccurate and distorted memories, and difficulty in locating memories in the brain; furthermore, there is discussion on suggestibility, susceptibility to acquiescence and be compliant in children (2013).
  17. 17. Personal Communication Information gathered during an interview with a licensed professional counselor regarding children on the witness stand to remind the forensic psychologist they are not the detective but a mediator with limited dialogue that becomes a different role when determining the best interest of the child (M. Kelly, personal communication, April 10, 2015). Overall M. Kelly’s opinion correlated with the results found in the research analysis in that the child’s ability to testify is more related to developmental age and cognitive abilities than a chronological age (personal communication, April 10, 2015)
  18. 18. Limitations/Gaps ✤ 1. What psychological impacts are there on a chid when one parent pressures the child report abuse on the other parent? ✤ Is there clinical research to support the notion that the coached child will develop PTSD? ✤ How can differentiating between confabulation and lying be objectively identified?
  19. 19. Future Research ✤ This writer feels there needs to be more research into the development of protocols or algorithms to establish an ethical standard for interviewing small children that has backed scientific evidence along with reliability and validity.
  20. 20. April 20, 2015 Conclusion The success of a child on the witness stand providing accurate memory recall depends on the developmental age, abilities and limitations of that particular child. It is also influenced by successful non-bias interviewing techniques and procedures that gathers and collects information without probing questions and free of coercion, threats, and susceptibly to acquiesce. It is in the best interest of all those involved in protecting children from maltreatment or determining the best interest of the child to follow scientifically backed interviewing guidelines so that justice is served to those that are guilty of harming the innocent.
  21. 21. References Ball, K. & Kucinski, M. (2014). Guidelines for direct child involvement in contested custody litigation. American Journal of Family Law (28)3, 143-147 Berk, L.E. (2010). Development through the lifespan, fifth edition. Boston: Allyn & Bacon Brown, J., Long-McGie, J., Oberoi, P., Wartnik, A., Weinkauf, E., & Falconer, G. (2013). Confabulation: connections between brain damage, memory and testimony. Journal of Law Enforcement (3)5, 1-11 Blackstone, K.E. (2009, winter). The fallibility of forensic interviewing: understanding the Michaels’ decision and the taint hearing. Forensic Examiner (18)4, 48-54 Cheung, M. (2003). Utilization of questioning techniques in forensic child sexual abuse interviews. Journal of Brief Therapy (3)1, 45-51 Crossman, A.M., Powell, M.B., Principe, G.F., & Ceci, S.J. (2002). Child testimony in custody cases: a review. Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice (2)1-31 Dallam, S.J. & Silberg, J.L. (2014). Six myths that place children at risk during custody disputes. Family & Intimate Partner Violence Quarterly (7)1, 65-68 Fisher, C.E. (2013). Decoding the ethics code, third edition. Los Angeles: Sage Publishing Hagan, L.D. & Hagan, A.C. (2008). Custody evaluations without psychological testing: prudent practice or fatal law? The Journal of Psychiatry & Law (36) 67-106 Kehn, A., Gray, J.M., & Nunez, N.L. (2007). Hearsay testimony: protecting the needs of children at the expense of the defendant’s right to a fair trial. Journal of Forensic Psychology Practice (7)1, 59-66 Krahenbuhl, S., Blades, M., & Eiser, (2009). The effect of repeated questioning on children’s accuracy and consistency in eyewitness testimony. Law and Criminological Psychology (14) 263-278 Leo, R.A. & Davis, D. (2010). From false confession to wrongful conviction: seven psychological processes. The Journal of Psychiatry & Law (38) 9-56 Lester, J.D. & Lester, Jr. J.D. (2011) Principles of writing research papers, third edition. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc. Malloy, L.C., Johnson, J.L, & Goodman, G.S. (2013). Children’s memory and event reports: the current state of knowledge and best practice. Journal of Forensic Social Work (3) 106-132 Manning, L. (2007). The sleep of reason of produces monsters. Crime Magazine. Retrieved from Marriage & Divorce. (n.d.). Adapted from the Encyclopedia of Psychology. Retrieved from Melton, G.B., Petrila, J., Poythress, N.G., & Slobogin, C. (1997). Psychological evaluations for the courts, second edition. New York: The Guilford Press Miles, K.L., Powell, M.B., Gignac, G.E., & Thomson, D.M. (2007). How well does the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale for Children, version 2 predict the recall of false details among children with and without intellectual disabilities. Law and Criminological Psychology (12) 217- 232 Myers, J. E. B. (Summer/Fall, 1994). Adjudication of child sexual abuse cases. The Future of Children (4)2, 84-101. Retrieved from National Incident Based Reporting System. (2000). Sexual assault of young children as reported to law enforcement. Victim, incident, and offender characteristics [Data File]. Retrieved from Otgaar, H., Sauerland, M., & Petrilla, J.P. (2013). Novel shifts in memory research and their impact on the legal process: introduction to the special issue on memory formation and suggestibility in the legal process. Behavioral Sciences and the Law (31) 531-540 Rudstein, D.S. (1988). Coy v. Iowa, 487 U.S. 1012 (1998). Retrieved from Steinberg, A. & Fromm, L. (2012). The use of narrative and persuasion in the child forensic psychiatric reports and testimony. Journal of Psychiatry & Law (40) 23-41 Tsilmark, O.M. (2013). Operative audiovisual diagnosis of false testimony of minors. Internal Security (1) 187-194 Vandervort, F.E. (2013). Protecting child witnesses on the witness stand: the law and the role of forensic social worker in criminal proceed gins. Journal of Forensic and Social Work (3) 150-175