Beginning in the 1980s, children have increasingly served as witnesses in abstract the criminal, civil, and family courts; currently, >100 000 children appear in court each year. This statement updates the 1992 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement "The Child as a Witness" and the subsequent 1999 "The Child in Court: A Subject Review." It also builds on existing AAP policy on adverse life events affecting children and resources developed to understand and address childhood trauma. The purpose of this policy statement is to provide background information on some of the legal issues involving children testifying in court, including the accuracy and psychological impact of child testimony; to provide suggestions for how pediatricians can support patients who will testify in court; and to make recommendations for policy improvements to minimize the adverse psychological consequences for child witnesses. These recommendations are, for the most part, based on studies on the psychological and physiologic consequences of children witnessing and experiencing violence, as well as appearing in court, that have emerged since the previous AAP publications on the subject. The goal is to reduce the secondary traumatization of and long-term consequences for children providing testimony about violence they have experienced or witnessed. This statement primarily addresses children appearing in court as victims of physical or sexual abuse or as witnesses of violent acts; most of the scientific literature addresses these specific situations. It may apply, in certain situations, to children required to provide testimony in custody disputes, child welfare proceedings, or immigration court. It does not address children appearing in court as offenders or as part of juvenile justice proceedings.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health