How common is "common knowledge" about child witnesses among legal professionals? Comparing interviewers, public defenders, and forensic psychologists with laypeople.

Behav Sci Law 2014 Nov-Dec;32(6):867-83. Epub 2014 Dec 4.

Weber State University, UT.

The present study evaluates the knowledge of jury-eligible college students (n = 192), investigative interviewers (n = 44), forensic psychologists (n = 39), and public defenders (n = 137) in regard to the research on interviewing children. These groups' knowledge was compared with the scientific research on the impact of interview techniques and practices on the accuracy of child witnesses. Jury-eligible students were the least knowledgeable, but their accuracy varied widely across items. Both interviewers and public defenders performed better than jury-eligible students, but they lacked substantial knowledge about the research on interviewing children on certain topics (e.g., using anatomically detailed dolls); forensic psychologists were the most knowledgeable. These findings suggest that professionals in the legal system need substantial professional development regarding the research on interviewing strategies with child witnesses. They also highlight the need for experts to provide case-relevant information to juries who lack basic information about the validity and reliability of children's reports.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bsl.2150DOI Listing
September 2015
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