6. Reducing maltreated children’s reluctance to answer hypothetical oath-taking competency questions.Law & Human Behavior (2001)
Before allowing child witnesses to testify, courts routinely require children to describe what would happen to them if they lied. However, young children often refuse to reason hypothetically if they view the premises as implausible or undesirable, and might be more willing to discuss the consequences of lying if they are asked about another child rather than themselves. On the other hand, children might view themselves as invulnerable to punishment, and therefore believe that whereas other children will be punished for lying, they will not be. In this study, 64 maltreated 5- and 6-year-old children were asked to describe the consequences of lying to three professionals (a judge, a social worker, and a doctor). Participants in the “self” condition were asked what would happen to them if they lied, whereas participants in the “other” condition were asked to describe what would happen to a story child if he or she lied. Asking children about “other” children increased responsiveness, and did not reveal perceptions of invulnerability. The results suggest that young children’s understanding that they will be punished for lying may make them reluctant to discuss the consequences of lying, leading to underestimation of their oath-taking competency.
- child abuse,
- child neglect,
- child witness,
- children's reluctance,
- oath-taking competency
Publication DateJanuary, 2001
Citation InformationLyon, T. D., Saywitz, K. J., Kaplan, D. L., & Dorado, J. S. (2001). Reducing maltreated children’s reluctance to answer hypothetical oath-taking competency questions. Law & Human Behavior, 25, 81-92.