Effects of Suggestive Interviewing and Indirect Evidence on Child Credibility in a Sexual Abuse Case


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to James M. Wood, Department of Psychology, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX 79968. e-mail: jwood@mail.utep.edu.


The present study examined the effects of suggestive questioning and indirect evidence on the perceived credibility of a child reporting sexual abuse. Written materials describing a trial for indecency with a child were presented to 232 mock jurors, who were asked to render a verdict and rate the credibility of witnesses. When the child's statement was elicited by suggestive questioning, mock jurors were less likely to convict the alleged perpetrator and viewed the child witness as less credible, honest, competent, and intelligent. Jurors were equally likely to convict whether the child's report was presented directly in an interview transcript or indirectly through the secondhand testimony of a police interviewer. The findings support the view that suggestive questioning can lower a child's credibility in the eyes of jurors.