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PSYC 3020 (50)
Dan Yarmey (47)

PSYC*3020 Unit 6.doc

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University of Guelph
PSYC 3020
Dan Yarmey

Unit 6: The Child as an Eyewitness and Victim Introduction - it used to be assumed that children were highly susceptible to suggestion and could be easily led in answering questions - it was assumed that they have difficulty in distinguishing between reality and fantasy or between dreams and memories - Jean Piaget claimed that the courts should treat the testimony of children under the age of 11 or 12 as unreliable - contemporary research does not fully support these beliefs - questions of accuracy, suggestibility and capacity to distinguish fact and fantasy are not simply functions of age, they vary with the familiarity of the event being recalled, the cognitive skills of the child and the emotions surrounding the event Read Textbook Chapter 6 pg. 146-174 Chapter 6: Child Victims and Witnesses History - child victims and witnesses can be traced back to witch trials in 1692 - some children recanted their testimonies - the prevailing legal attitude toward child witnesses for the following 300 years was that of skepticism - research in the early 20th century began in europe concluding that children were high- ly suggestible and had difficult separating fact from fiction - research on children’s witness abilities started in the 1970s and continues today - 4 factors led to the renewed interested in child witnesses: 1. Expert psychological testimony was becoming more acceptable in court 2. Social scientists were interested in research that could be applied to real-world prob- lems 3. Studies on adult eyewitness testimony were increasing 4. The legal community became interested in behavioural science research regarding child witnesses (because of the increasing number of abuse cases where a child was a victim or witness) Recall For Events - studies have found that children are capable of accurately recalling forensically rele- vant deaths of events - the challenge is determining when children are recalling accurately and when they are fabricating (making false claims) Free Recall Versus Directed Questioning - when children are asked to report all they can remember, using a free narrative ap- proach, their accuracy in responding is comparable with that of adults - unfortunately children tend to report very little information using a free narrative - direct questions are often necessary to elicit the required information - when children are asked leading, direct questions, they are more likely to produce an erroneous response - older children are more resistant to leading questions - Dr. Maggie rBuck has been a key researcher in the area of children’s eyewitness and suggestibility - direct questions are particularly problematic for preschoolers - yes/no questions are problematic for children because they rely on recognition rather than recall, thus increasing the likelihood of error Why Are Children More Suggestible Than Adults? - 2 directions have been taken to understand this 1. Social Compliance or Social Pressure - children trust and want to cooperate with adult interviewers, they may infer the desired response, want to please interviewer 2. Changes to the Cognitive System - there are developmental differences in the ways children and adults encode, store, and retrieve memories - differences have been found in terms of forgetting and retention - children misattribute where information came from - interaction between social and cognitive factors is responsible - there are a number of techniques and procedures to aid child witnesses with recalling information Anatomically Detailed Dots - a doll consistent with male or female anatomy - useful when children have difficulty providing a verbal account, children demonstrate on the doll the events they experienced - research on this is contradictory - in a study, younger children were more likely to play with the dolls in a suggestive man- ner and to contradict details that were reported verbally - both younger and older children reported proportionally more “fantastic” details with the dolls than without - a different study found that children were more likely to report touching when ques- tioned orally - with direct questions - children in this study who had not received the genital examination never made false reports of genital touching on oral free recall or the doll Should Anatomically Detailed Dolls Be Used? - difficulties with dolls have been identified - there are no specifications or guidelines available for manufacturers - wide variation exists - there is no standard procedure for scoring the behaviours that children exhibit Other Techniques for Interviewing Children Criterion-Based Content Analysis (CBCA) - analysis that uses criteria to distinguish truthful from false statements made by children Statement Validity Analysis (SVA) - a comprehensive protocol to distinguish truthful or false statements made by children containing three parts: (1) a structured interview of the child witness, (2) a systematic analysis of the verbal content of the child’s state- ments (CBCA), and (3) the application of the statement validity checklist - CBCA is considered the most important part of the SVA - the underlying assumption of the CBCA is that descriptions of real events differ in queasily and content form memories that are fabricated - 18 criteria were developed to discriminate between true and fabricated events e.g. is the statement coherent, is the account organized, are there specific descriptions - it is assumed that true events are more likely to contain the CBCA criteria - critics of CBCA say there are inconsistencies with the number of criteria that need to be present to conclude truthfulness and the different decision rules for reaching a con- clusion - younger children do not possess the cognitive abilities and command of the language to provide as detailed statements - CBCA scores are influenced by both how familiar the event is to the child and how old the child is - CBCA scores are calculated by using a truth-lie classification that requires the asses- sor to classify the statement as truthful or untruth based on their own interpretation of the statement - this method is highly subjective - low inter-rate reliability Step-Wise Interview - interview protocol with a series of “steps” designed to start the in- terview with the least leading and directive type of questioning and then proceed to more specific forms of questioning, as necessary - the objective is to provide the child with lots of opportunity to report by using a free nar- rative before other types of questioning are used - steps including rapport building, recall of two non-abuse events, explanation of truth, introduction of critical topic, free-narrative, general questions, specific questions (if nec- essary), interview aids (if necessary) and conclude Narrative Elaboration - an interview procedure whereby children learn to organize their story into relevant categories: participants, settings, actions, conversation/affective states, and consequences - a card containing a line drawing is available for each category - these visual cues help children remember to state all they can, they practice telling sto- ries with each card, then are asked free narrative, then asked if the card reminds them to tell them something else - in a study, children interviewed with the narrative elaboration procedure reported more accurate information but not more inaccurate information National Institute of Child Health and Human development (NICHD) - developed an interview procedure that relies on open-ended questioning with two types of prompts available - interviewers can use time prompts to have the child fill in details and a timeline - interviews can also use cue questions prompts where details that the child has report- ed are used in the question and children are asked to elaborate Cognitive Interview - children interviewed with the cognitive interview reported by accurate information Recall Memory Following a Long Delay - some argue that childhood sexual abuse memories are so traumatic that they repress them in their unconscious - others argue that it is only through therapy and the use of suggestive techniques that clients come to believe they were sexually abuse as children when they were not False Memory Syndrome - term to describe clients’ false beliefs that they were sexual- ly abused as children, having no memories of this abuse until they enter therapy to deal with some other psychological problem, such as depression or substance abuse Can Traumatic Memories Be Forgotten? - not having a memory is different from preferring not to think about it - when there is absolutely no memory of abuse, and it is only through the use of sug- gestive techniques that the abuse is remembered, many argue that these memories should be interpreted cautiously - there are 5 criteria to consider when dealing with a recovered memory: 1. Age of complainant at the time of the alleged abuse - it is unlikely anyone would have any memory before the age of 2 2. Techniques used to recover memory - hypnosis and guide imagery heighten sug- gestibility and encourage fantasy 3. Similarity of reports across interview sessions - do the reports become increasingly more fantastic or are they similar 4. Motivation for recall - is the client experiencing other psychological distress and want- ing an answer to explain such feelings? 5. Time elapsed since the alleged abuse - it may be more difficult to recall abuse that occurred 25 years ago than 2 years ago Historic Child Sexual Abuse (HCSA) - allegations of child abuse having occurred sex- ual years, often decades, prior to when they are being prosecuted - the vast majority involve memories of abuse that have been continuous, the victim claims to never have “forgotten” the abuse - being male is a reliable predictor of delayed reporting - in Canada there is no time limit during which a victim must report sexual abuse Recall For People - culprit descriptions by child witnesses have been examined in only a few studies Describing the Culprit - in a study, younger children recalled fewer items in describing a stranger - older children recalled more interior facial features - hair was the most frequently mentioned feature (in children and adults) - interior facial features are problematic for both youth and adults - height, weight and age are commonly reported - children may have difficulty with their estimates of these though - children and youth may not understand the relation between height and weight - talker people are heavier than shorter people of similar firth - may lack experience with height and weight - in a study, children were most accurate with free recall questions and least accurate when they are given expectations about a stranger who visited them and misinformation about the stranger - children who were given a stereotype about the stranger produced a fair number of false reports - children are more likely to accept positive, inaccurate information than negative, inac- curate information Recognition - identification of a culpret from a lineup - children over age 5 produced comparable correct identification rates to adults, provid- ed the culprit was present in the lineup - when the culprit was not in the lineup, children as old as age 14 produced greater false positives than adults - select an innocent person Lineup Procedure and Identification Rates - with adults, the sequential lineup has been demonstrated to decrease false-positive re- sponding compared with simultaneous presentation - with sequential lineup presentation, the gap for false-positive responding between children and adults increased - the sequential lineup increased false-positive responding with child witnesses An Identification Procedure for Children - proposed a two-judgment theory of identification accuracy - researchers postulated that to reach an accurate identification decision, witnesses conduct two judgments: relative and absolute - first, witnesses compare across lineup members and choose the most similar looking lineup members to the culprit (relative) - second, witnesses compare the most-similar lineup member to their memory of the culprit and decide if that is the culprit (absolute) - children often fail to make an absolute judgment - with target-present lineups, a relative judgment is sufficient to lead to a correct identifi- cation because it is likely that the culprit looks most like themselves compared with other lineup members - with target-absent lineups, solely relying on a relative judgment may lead to an identifi- cation of an innocent person because the most similar-looking lineup member is not the culprit Elimination Lineup - lineup procedure for children that first asks them to pick out the person who looks most like the culprit from the photos displayed. Next, the children are asked whether the most similar person selected is in fact the culprit - the elimination procedure was found to significantly decrease children’s false-positive responding with target-absent lineups - children’s false-positive rate (or correct-rejection rate) was similar to adults Testifying in Court Competency Inquiry - questions posed to child witnesses under age 14 to determine whether they are able to communicate the evidence and understand the difference be- tween the truth and a lie, and in the circumstances of testifying, to see if they feel com- pelled to tell the truth - this was required prior to 2006 - Bill C-2 came into effect in Canada in 2006, it states that there is a presumption that children have the capacity to testify - children are asked simple questions about past events to determine their ability to un- derstand and respond to questions - they are requested to promise to tell the truth and testify under such promise - no questions are asked about their understanding of the notion of an oath or truth Courtroom Accommodations - children may experience extreme stress and trauma from testifying and facing the de- fendant - there are a set of alternatives to testifying in the presence of the defendant - in 1988, children are able to testify from behind a screen or from another room through a television - these are applied to children under the age of 18 who are victims of sexual offence cases - in 1997, Bill C-2 further extends these provision for any offence which a child (someone under the age of 18) testifies - alternatives that are available are a screen so that the child does not see the defen- dant’s face, testifying from a separate room through a television, the child may have a support person with them, the child may be video-recorded while being interviewed, statements made by the child during the initial disclosure of the abuse may be allowed as evidence (this is unusual in normal cases), and the juge may close the courtroom to the public and/or media to protect privacy - also, children are no longer to be cross-examined personally by the accused Child Maltreatment - there is maltreatment other than sexual abuse that children may experience - The Child Maltreatment Section (CMS) of Health Canada has 4 categories: 1. Physical Abuse - the deliberate application of force to any part of a child’s body that results in or may result in non-accidental injury 2. Sexual Abuse - when an adult or youth uses a child for sexual purposes 3. Neglect/Failure to Provide - when a child’s caregivers do not provide the requisite attention to the child’s emotional, psychological or physical development 4. Emotional Maltreatment - acts or omissions by caregivers that cause or could cause serious behavioural, cognitive, emotional or mental disorders - it is likely that children experience multiple forms of maltreatment simultaneously - government agencies have the authority and responsibility to remove children from their caregivers when they are maltreated or at risk for maltreatment - a child may be removed is a caregiver is unwilling or unable to prevent abuse by a third party - may be removed because of alcohol or drug use or mental illness, if they negatively af- fect parents In need of protection - a term used to describe a child’s need to be separate from his or her caregiver because of maltreatment - with the exception of Yukon, Canadian jurisdictions require the reporting of children suspected to be in need of protection - in a study, 98% of psychologists were aware of mandatory reporting laws but did not necessarily comply - respondents said they may not report child maltreatment because of insufficient evi- dence or a belief that child protection agencies can’t help Incidence - number of new child maltreatment cases in a specific population occurring in a given time period, usually a year Prevalence - in the study of child abuse, the proportion of a population at a specific point in time that was maltreated during childhood - most maltreatment is neglect, the exposure to domestic violence, then physical abuse - in 1998, there was a 125% increase in substantiated cases because of (1) changes in case-substantiation practices, (2) more systematic identification of victimized siblings - greater awareness of emotional maltreatment and exposure to domestic violence Risk Factors Associated with Child Maltreatment Risk Factor - a factor that increases the likelihood for emotional and/or behavioural problems - risk factors for physical and sexual abuse have been categorized as child factors, parental factors and social factors - risk factors for physical and sexual abuse differ - risk factors for physical = being male (child factor), young maternal age, single-parent status, history of childhood physical abuse (parental factors), low socioeconomic status and large family size (social factors) - risk factors for sexual = being female (child factor), living in a family without a biologi- cal parent, presence of a stepfather, poor relationships between parents (parental fac- tors) Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Physical Abuse - short-term = greater perceptual-motor deficits, lower measure intellectual functioning, lower academic achievement, externalizing behaviour such as aggression, and internal- izing mental health difficulties such as hopelessness and depression - long-term effects = non-familial and familial violence, dating violence - 30% of physical abuse or neglected persons abuse their own children Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Sexual Abuse - short-term = lowered self-esteem, inappropriate sexuality, symptoms consistent with PTSD, sleep disturbance, eating disorders, stomach problems, headaches - there are 3 categories of outcomes in adults with a history of childhood sexual abuse: (1) psychiatric disorders, (2) dysfunctional behaviours, and (3) neurobiological dysregu- lation - psychiatric = major depression, dysfunctional = sexualized behaviour, neurobiological = reduced hippocampal volume - adults who were sexually abuse as children have an increased risk of being sexually abused as adults - other long-term risks include depression, self-injurious behaviours, anxiety, and inter- personal distrust - 1/5 young people are solicited for sex over the internet each year - now it is a criminal offence to use the internet to communicate with a child for the pur- pose of committing a sexual act, this carries a maximum 5 year prison sentence A Caveat to the Outcomes of Child Maltreatment - not all children who experience maltreatment will suffer negative outcomes Back to Course Manual Accuracy of Children’s Eyewitness Memory - studies of free narration indicate that young children (6 years and under) tend to recall fewer details of an incident than older children and adults - older children are generally as accurate in what they do recall as adult witnesses - younger children are more likely to recall stories containing extraneous information, in- cluding exaggerations and contradictions of the facts of the original event - children up to the age of 6 are less likely to produce inaccurate information during free narration, whereas 8-9 year olds are most likely to add extraneous and less plausible in- formation to their accounts - errors of omission occur with greater frequency for all ages than errors of commission - adults are most susceptible to making logical errors of inference in their reconstruc- tions of an event - memory of both children and adults is more accurate with free narration and decline with cued recall, multiple-choice-type questions, and yes-no type questions - the type of content of memory has also been shown to differ as a function of age - 4 1/2 year olds in contrast to 3 year olds were superior in description of details of ob- jects seen during a field trip but they were similar in memory for activities - the fact that older children provide less but just as accurate recall as adults suggests that attentional factors play a significant role in performance - young children have less ability to deal with the complexity of information that has to be processed simultaneously - children’s ability to attend to stimuli improves with age - older children are more likely to use strategies during the attentional and observational stage which facilitate the encoding of information and the availability of retrieval cues when memory is tested - for preschoolers, memory for events that are causally related is better than memory for a series of events that are unfamiliar and randomly ordered - knowledge, rather than age is more important in memory performance - the length of the retention interval (the period of time between witnessing and recalling an event) also is related to age-dependent effects on recall - recall is more likely to decline over time with children than for adults - children recall significantly less information about events as time passes - children have difficulty accessing memory over long periods of time unless they are provided with very specific, distinctive retrieval cues - the most effective memory props for young children are those that are very specific, such as providing the environmental context in which the event took place with specific items and objects involved - when children are interviewed after long delays of 1 or 2 years, they frequently report new information which was not reported at an earlier time, this information can be rela- tively accurate (70%) - information repeated across interviews is more accurate than new information follow- ing a long delay - children may confuse similar episodes which reduces accuracy of free recall - children’s and adult’s memory for stressful events declines at the same rate of forget- ting as memory for non-stressful events - memory for traumatic events, like non-traumatic events, produces superior recall for the central components of the event, not as much for peripheral details - stress sometimes enhances attention and encoding of information, sometimes results in poorer memory or may have no effect - in a study of children who visited a hospital emergency room, children were able to give complete and accurate information about the stressful incident a few days later and 6 months later - the amount of information recalled increased with age and children made few errors of commission - differences in levels of stress at the time of injury did not affect amount or accuracy of recall but differences in levels of stress at the time of treatment decreased the accuracy of recall for the youngest children - in a study, children who witness the murder of one of their parents show several distor- tions of memory, including faulty retrospective estimations of the duration and se- quences of critical events Read 6.1 in Course Reader 6.1: Children’s Eyewitness Memory - The early characterizations of child witnesses were not particularly flattering and, ulti- mately, they lead to a long•period during which children's testimony was considered like- ly to be highly unreliable - Varendonck was probably one of the most well known and widely cited of the early crit- ics of children's place in the legal system. - According to Varendonck, when children claim to have observed certain details, we can't trust those observations, their imaginations play tricks on them, and they are easily influenced by those in authority - Brown children were infinitely malleable: "create, if you will, an idea of what the child is to hear or see, and the child is very likely to see or hear what you desire" - The 1980s, however, saw the beginning of a shift towards the view that, at least under some conditions, young children can be relied upon to recount what has happened to them. - What brought about this change in the perception of children's abilities as witnesses? It is often assumed to have been driven by the need to obtain information from children when they were the only witnesses, especially in cases of suspected sexual abuse. - between 10 and 20% of homicides in Los Angeles are witnessed by children - critical to the changing view of children as witnesses has been changing views of chil- dren's competencies. - the basic assumption remained that as the child matured, the space increased more could be, and was, remembered - The observation that adults generally could not recall experiences from their earliest years, the phenomenon known as childhood amnesia, added weight to the perception that during early childhood memory is fickle, fragmentary, and not long-lasting. - In the 1970s, two important trends in research on memory development laid the ground for the current re-evaluation of the potential of children as witnesses. - First, researchers began to study children's memory for events and past experiences. - his work showed that even preschoolers formed quite organized memories of events, on the basis of even a single experience. Although young children's accounts of events tended to be very brief, they were by no means the chaotic muddle proposed by Piaget. - The second important trend in research was that laboratory-based studies began to examine exactly what develops in memory development and, in particular, the role of strategies for remembering and the acquisition of knowledge - older children were more likely to use strategies than were younger children, strategies that help to encode information such as the rehearsal of material to be remembered, and strategies that help to retrieve information such as the use of retrieval cues - Younger children could use these strategies, if instructed to do so, and when they did use them they remembered more, often eliminating age differences in memory - The importance of the acquisition of knowledge in developmental differences in memo- ry was also clearly demonstrated. - knowledge rather than age was the more important determinant of memory. - what are the conditions under which young children provide the most complete and ac- curate accounts of past events? How can we enhance children's accounts of past events? - This question arises because one of the most consistent findings in the memory litera- ture is that young children spontaneously remember less - Young children frequently need more cues and for the cues to be more specific if they are to access, retrieve and report specific memories in detail. - In general, the most effective props are those that are very specific. - Props may be useful not only because they help retrieve information from memory, but also because they can be used as aids to communication - the props most commonly used with children are toys or model items. Their potential advantage is that they are a very familiar medium for young children to act out, or show, what they know. - toys may also have disadvantages. For one thing, toys do not necessarily provide very good retrieval cues insofar as retrieval cues are likely to be effective to the extent they match the conditions present when the information is encoded - When children are asked to show as well as tell what happens, toys can be quite effec- tive in increasing the amount of information reported although this increase may be at the expense of accuracy. - in using toys to facilitate communication about a past event, we are asking children to use them as representations, or symbols, of items or people from that event. - toys have their own identities, their own associations, and in order for the child to use them to talk about the past, they have to · put aside these other identities. What are the effects of very long delays on children's event reports? - relatively little research has addressed the impact of long delays on children's ac- counts. - there may be significant changes in what children remember, and in the accuracy of their reports. - With respect to errors, however, the older children made the same number following the delay, and the younger children made more errors one year later than they had soon after - Together, the decrease in accurate recall and stable or increasing errors resulted in a decrease in overall accuracy for both age groups, and especially for the younger chil- dren - When children are interviewed following long delays, they frequently report new infor- mation - information not reported at an earlier time. This is, of course, the phenomenon known as reminiscence and is often observed when adults are repeatedly tested in memory tests - children report relatively little information in free recall but what is recalled is generally quite accurate. Although information repeated across interviews is more accurate than information reported for the first time following a long delay, even new information, infor- mation recalled for the first time at the long delay, was still over 70% accurate - However, when children were prompted, either verbally or in combination with props, the picture was quite different. Information repeated from an interview shortly after an event a
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