23 Child Development and the Law

Developmental Psychology


  1. Michael E. Lamb1,
  2. Lindsay C. Malloy2

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop206023

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Lamb, M. E. and Malloy, L. C. 2012. Child Development and the Law. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 6:VI:23.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Cambridge, Department of Social and Developmental Psychology, Cambridge, United Kingdom

  2. 2

    Florida International University, Department of Psychology, Miami, Florida, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


We focus on three topics regarding which legal practice concerning youth has been at least somewhat responsive to input from developmental scientists. We first discuss the ways in which research on parent–child relationships and on the effects of divorce can guide professionals making decisions about children's living arrangements when their parents divorce or separate. Second, we review research on the extent to which children are capable of providing detailed testimony about their experiences of child abuse and illustrate the ways in which developmentally appropriate forensic interview procedures improve the quality of information provided by alleged victims. Third, we discuss the characteristics of alleged juvenile offenders that influence their vulnerability and culpability, highlighting implications for the legal system. We demonstrate that “basic” and “applied” research complement one another and that developmental processes can only be understood when we are able to examine youth in experimental, analog, and real-world contexts.


  • post-divorce parenting plans;
  • child witnesses;
  • juvenile justice;
  • forensic investigation;
  • basic vs. applied research