Young Children's Competency to Take the Oath: Effects of Task, Maltreatment, and Age

Posted: 9 May 2009

See all articles by Thomas D. Lyon

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Nathalie Carrick

California State University, Fullerton

Jodi Quas

University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society

Abstract

This study examined maltreated and non-maltreated children's (N = 183) emerging understanding of "truth" and "lie," terms about which they are quizzed in order to qualify as competent to testify. Four- to six-year-old children were asked to accept or reject true and false (T/F) statements, label T/F statements as the "truth" or "a lie," label T/F statements as "good" or "bad," and label "truth" and "lie" as "good" or "bad." The youngest children were at ceiling in accepting/rejecting T/F statements. The labeling tasks revealed improvement with age and children performed similarly across the tasks. Most children were better able to evaluate "truth" than "lie." Maltreated children exhibited somewhat different response patterns, suggesting greater sensitivity to the immorality of lying.

Suggested Citation

Lyon, Thomas D. and Carrick, Nathalie and Quas, Jodi, Young Children's Competency to Take the Oath: Effects of Task, Maltreatment, and Age. Law and Human Behavior, Forthcoming; USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 09-12. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1401537

Thomas D. Lyon (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-0142 (Phone)
213-740-5502 (Fax)

Nathalie Carrick

California State University, Fullerton ( email )

800 N State College St
Fullerton, CA 92831
United States

Jodi Quas

University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society ( email )

2340 Social Ecology 2, RM
Irvine, CA 92697

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