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Assessing Childrens Credibility in Courtroom Investigations of Alleged Child Sexual Abuse Suggestibility, Plausibility, and Consistency

NCJ Number
Child Maltreatment Dated: 2019
Date Published
10 pages
This study examined 134 testimonies of victims of child sexual abuse (CSA), ages 5-17 (M = 12.48, SD = 3.34; 90 percent female), with a focus on how attorneys assessed a child's credibility regarding suggestibility/honesty, plausibility, and consistency.

Since children's testimonies of child sexual abuse (CSA) often lack concrete evidence to corroborate a child's claims, attorneys devote a substantial amount of time to establishing a child as credible during the course of a trial. The results of the current study revealed that although prosecutors examined plausibility more often to establish credibility, defense attorneys focused their assessments on suggestibility/honesty and potential inconsistency; however, both attorneys asked many more questions about children's consistency than any other area of potential credibility. Furthermore, while prosecutors ask proportionally more credibility-challenging questions of older children, the defense did not. These results suggest that prosecutors may be missing an opportunity to establish children as honest and consistent and elucidate a need to train attorneys on the implications of children's inconsistencies, suggestibility, and plausible abuse dynamics. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2019