Relations between Attorney Temporal Structure and Children's Response Productivity in Cases of Alleged Child Sexual Abuse

22 Legal and Criminological Psychology 228-241 (2017)

USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS16-17

USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 16-19

15 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2016 Last revised: 10 Nov 2017

See all articles by J. Klemfuss

J. Klemfuss

Florida International University (FIU)

Kyndra Cleveland

University of California, Irvine

Jodi Quas

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

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Date Written: November 9, 2017

Abstract

Purpose. Previous research has demonstrated that attorney question format relates to child witness’ response productivity. However, little work has examined the extent to which attorneys provide temporal structure in their questions, and the effects of this structure on children’s responding. The purpose of this study was to address this gap in the literature to identify methods by which attorneys increase children’s response productivity on the stand without risking objections from opposing counsel for ‘calling for narrative answers’.

Methods. In this study, we coded criminal court transcripts involving child witnesses (5–18 years) for narrative structure in attorney questions and productivity in children’s responses. Half of the transcripts resulted in convictions, half in acquittals, balanced across key variables: child age, allegation severity, the child’s relationship to the perpetrator, and the number of allegations.

Results. Prosecutors and defence attorneys varied substantially in their questioning tactics. Prosecutors used more temporal structure in their questions and varied their questioning by the age of the child. These variations had implications for children’s response productivity.

Conclusions. Results indicate that temporal structure is a novel and viable method for enhancing children’s production of case-relevant details on the witness stand.

Suggested Citation

Klemfuss, J. and Cleveland, Kyndra and Quas, Jodi and Lyon, Thomas D., Relations between Attorney Temporal Structure and Children's Response Productivity in Cases of Alleged Child Sexual Abuse (November 9, 2017). 22 Legal and Criminological Psychology 228-241 (2017); USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS16-17; USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 16-19. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2808063

J. Klemfuss (Contact Author)

Florida International University (FIU) ( email )

University Park
11200 SW 8th Street
Miami, FL 33199
United States

Kyndra Cleveland

University of California, Irvine ( email )

Campus Drive
Irvine, CA 62697-3125
United States

Jodi Quas

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

2340 Social Ecology 2, RM
Irvine, CA 92697

Thomas D. Lyon

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)

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