The current anxiety about the validity of children's testimony in court stems mostly from heavily publicized cases of child molestation during the 1980's (Meyer, 1997). As a result of society's reaction to dramatic increases in reports of abuse and neglect, children increasingly are being admitted as witnesses in juvenile and criminal proceedings (Ceci & de Bruyn, 1993). Each year hundreds of thousands of children in North America become entangled in the legal system. Often these children testify about the alleged actions of a parent, teacher, baby-sitter, relative or neighbor. And when this happens, the case is often decided on the basis of the relative credibility of the child versus the defendant. Regardless of whether such testimony is made in forensic interviews, during preliminary hearings, or at trial, it may result in life altering decisions for all involved (Ceci & Bruck, 1995).
The issue of children's veracity is not new to the courtroom. There were cases in Puritan times in which youngsters' testimony was responsible for the imprisonment and execution of a number of individuals accused of being witches (Meyer, 1997). Because of this, for both theoretical and practical reasons, many child psychologists, legal professionals, and others have long sought to understand more fully the extent to which young children are able to recall their experiences and to report on them accurately. As... [continues]
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