Maltreated Children's Understanding of and Emotional Reactions to Dependency Court Involvement
Behavioral Sciences & the Law, Vol. 27, p. 97, 2009
Posted: 14 May 2009 Last revised: 22 Jun 2009
Little is known about the extent to which maltreated children understand what is happening during their participation in court proceedings, despite large numbers of children coming into contact with the legal system as victims of maltreatment. In the present study, maltreated 4- to 15-year-olds were interviewed about their understanding of dependency court on the day of their scheduled court visit. Their feelings about attending their hearing were also assessed, and after their hearing, their understanding of the decisions was examined. Age-related improvements in children’s understanding emerged. Also, children who were more knowledgeable about the legal system were less distressed about attending their hearing, as were younger children who had been in the system a longer time. Finally, a majority of children lacked full or accurate understanding of what actually happened during their hearing. Findings have implications for children’s participation in legal proceedings and the development of interventions to facilitate children’s legal understanding.
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