Should children be allowed to testify in court?

Essay by Anonymous UserUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, February 1996

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Over the past ten years, more research has been done involving children's testimony

than that of all the prior decades combined. Ceci & Bruck (93) have cited four reasons for this :

* The opinion of psychology experts is increasingly being accepted by courts as testimony,

* Social research is more commonly being applied to the issues of children's rights,

* More research into adult suggestibility in accordance with reason naturally leads to more

research into child suggestibility,

* Children are more commonly being used as witnesses in cases where they are directly involved

(i.e. sexual abuses cases), requiring the development of better ways for dealing with them as

special cases.

Some psychologists deem children to be "Highly resistant to suggestion, as unlikely to

lie, and as reliable as adult witnesses about acts perpetrated on their bodies" (Ceci & Bruck

1993). However, children are also described as "Having difficulty distinguishing reality from

fantasy, as being susceptible to coaching by powerful authority figures, and therefore as being

potentially less reliable than adults" (Ceci & Bruck 1993).

The suggestibility of child witnesses,

the effects of participation on children's reports, and the effects of postevent information on a

prior memory representation must be taken into account when it comes to seeking answers to

the reliability of their testimony, especially because sexual abuse and sexual assault cases are a

big part of children's testimony and they are often the only witness.

Those psychologists who feel that children can be rated as "Highly resistant to

suggestion...." etc. seem to have a good argument, whereas those who take the opposite view

also seem to have just as valid an argument. Which psychologists are right? Maybe both. It

seems that without outside influences, social encounters, or other interference's, children's...