Purpose: This study examined the effects of the putative confession (telling the child that an adult “told me everything that happened and he wants you to tell the truth”) on children’s disclosure of a minor transgression after questioning by their parents. Methods: Children (N = 188; 4 – 7-year-olds) played with a confederate, and while doing so, for half of the children, toys broke. Parents then questioned their children about what occurred, and half of the parents were given additional scripted suggestive questions. Finally, children completed a mock forensic investigative interview. Results: Children given the putative confession were 1.6 times more likely in free recall to disclose truthfully that toys had broken. Among children who failed to disclose during free recall, those who received the putative confession were 1.9 times more likely when asked yes/no questions to disclose true breakage. The putative confession did not decrease accuracy, and children who received the putative confession were 2.6 times less likely to report false toy play. Parent suggestion did not adversely affect the efficacy of the putative confession. Conclusions: The current study demonstrates that children are often quite reticent to disclose transgressions, and that the putative confession is a promising avenue for increasing children’s comfort with disclosing and minimizing their tendency to report false details, even in the face of suggestive questioning by parents.
Child Psychology | Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Developmental Psychology | Evidence | Family Law | Juvenile Law | Law | Law and Psychology
Date of this Version
Elizabeth B. Rush, Stacia N. Stolzenberg, J A. Quas, and Thomas D. Lyon, "The effects of the putative confession and parent suggestion on children's disclosure of a minor transgression" (January 2017). University of Southern California Legal Studies Working Paper Series. Working Paper 240.