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Adults Often Fail To Detect When Children Falsely Deny Actual Events

By KJ Mullins     Aug 18, 2008 in Health
A new study out from the University of California, Davis shows that adults are easily fooled when children deny an actual event took place. That's not good when it comes to protecting the young from sexual predators.
Adults can generally figure out if a child makes up a tale but when it comes to them hiding facts of events it becomes more difficult.
In the world of forensic child sexual abuse investigations this study shows that innocent people are often able to get out of trouble which is good for the adults. It also shows that children will lie when it comes to their own pain, bad news for the kids.
At the annual meeting of the American Psychology Association in Boston on Sunday the study's results were presented by Gail S. Goodman.
"The large number of children coming into contact with the legal system -- mostly as a result of abuse cases -- has motivated intense scientific effort to understand children's true and false reports," said UC Davis psychology professor and study author Gail S. Goodman. "The seriousness of abuse charges and the frequency with which children's testimony provides central prosecutorial evidence makes children's eyewitness memory abilities important considerations. Arguably even more important, however, are adults' abilities to evaluate children's reports."
Goodman and her team asked 100 adults to view videos of 3 and 5 year olds being interviewed about true and false reports. The children in the tapes either accurately confirmed facts about events that had honestly happened or denied that it had happened. The children also were taped for false events in the same way.
The adults were then asked to evaluate each of the tapes to decide if events had or hadn't taken place.
When the event was a false one most of the adults could detect that the children were not telling the truth. However when children denied events that had actually happened the adults believed them.
"The findings suggest that adults are better at detecting false reports than they are at detecting false denials," Goodman said. "While accurately detecting false reports protects innocent people from false allegations, the failure to detect false denials could mean that adults fail to protect children who falsely deny actual victimization."
Goodman is one of the first researchers to do academic studies on children as eyewitnesses. She has written three books and over 170 articles in the field. Some of her research has been used in United States Supreme Court decisions.
More about Children eyewitnesses, Research study, Gail goodman
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