Suggestibility of the Child Witness: A Historical Review and Synthesis

Stephen J. Ceci, Maggie Bruck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The field of children's testimony is in turmoil, but a resolution to seemingly intractable debates now appears attainable. In this review, we place the current disagreement in historical context and describe psychological and legal views of child witnesses held by scholars since the turn of the 20th century. Although there has been consistent interest in children's suggestibility over the past century, the past 15 years have been the most active in terms of the number of published studies and novel theorizing about the causal mechanisms that underpin the observed findings. A synthesis of this research posits three "families" of factors-cognitive, social, and biological-that must be considered if one is to understand seemingly contradictory interpretations of the findings. We conclude that there are reliable age differences in suggestibility but that even very young children are capable of recalling much that is forensically relevant. Findings are discussed in terms of the role of expert witnesses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-439
Number of pages37
JournalPsychological Bulletin
Volume113
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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