From Post-Mortems to Preventive Medicine: Next Steps for Research on Child Witnesses

Posted: 29 Sep 2006

See all articles by Thomas D. Lyon

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Karen J. Saywitz

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - David Geffen School of Medicine

Abstract

We propose five directions for future child witness research, inspired by recognition of the day-to-day realities of the legal system and the opportunities of psychology to react pro-actively to challenges child witnesses face. These directions include 1) the refinement of developmentally sensitive questioning aids that increase completeness without increasing suggestibility, 2) the development of approaches to non-disclosure and recantation, including understanding of the reasons underlying non-disclosure and the potential for building rapport and increasing trust, 3) the construction of interventions that meet mental health needs of child-victim witnesses without creating false memories or tainting testimony, 4) a focus on details of children's narratives that are often lacking, including temporal information and emotional reactions, and 5) expanding our attention beyond child sexual abuse allegations in criminal court and considering the many contexts in which child witnesses are questioned, including areas in which preferences rather than memories are elicited.

Suggested Citation

Lyon, Thomas D. and Saywitz, Karen J., From Post-Mortems to Preventive Medicine: Next Steps for Research on Child Witnesses. University of Southern California Law Legal Studies Paper No. 06-18; Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 26, No. 3. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=933335

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)

Karen J. Saywitz

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - David Geffen School of Medicine ( email )

1000 Veteran Avenue, Box 956939
Los Angeles, CA 90095-6939
United States
310-222-4262 (Phone)
310-328-7217 (Fax)

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