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Do children make credible witnesses in court?

On Behalf of | Dec 9, 2020 | Sexual assault |

Learning that you’ve been accused of molesting a child can be devastating. Your life may instantly be turned upside down based solely on the word of a child (that may or may not have been coached into saying things).

Now, you can only wonder just how well that child’s testimony may be received in court. The reality is that children don’t always make reliable witnesses. Here’s why:

Children cannot always tell what is real

If you have spent much time with children, you will know they can struggle to differentiate fact from fantasy. If children believe Rudolph the Reindeer drinks the saucer of milk they leave out each Christmas, it is clear they may struggle to know whether what they accuse you of really happened or not. 

Children can change their answers

One study found that if you ask a young child the same question repeatedly, they assume this is because their original answer was wrong. So they may come up with a different answer to try and “get it right.”

Adults can influence a child’s statements and beliefs

If someone has something against you or is trying to cover their acts, they may persuade a child to accuse you. If someone repeats something often enough to a child, the child may even come to believe what they’re told.

The way a child is questioned can influence their responses

The way someone asks a question can make a massive difference in how the child answers. Social workers or parents are often so primed to protect a child that they ask leading questions or unwittingly transmit their preconceptions to the child, influencing the answers the child gives.

If you are accused of child molestation, you need urgent legal help. You need an attorney who has spent years delving into the psychological research surrounding child witnesses. They can demonstrate to a jury why child witnesses are not always credible.