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Social support and the quality of children's eyewitness testimony

Moston, Stephen John (1989) Social support and the quality of children's eyewitness testimony. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.85943) (KAR id:85943)


It has been argued that children do not make competent witnesses. Their accounts of witnessed events tend to be limited in scope and they are seen as being highly suggestible. However, assessments of competency have been biased by situational variables such as stress at the time information is recalled. The provision of social support is one way of reducing stress but this issue has been neglected by eyewitness researchers, seemingly because of the assumption that the presence of a support person undermines the reliability of the interview. This thesis examined the conditions under which peer social support could influence children's testimony. It shows how fears concerning social support stem from a poor understanding of the causes of suggestibility and that social support can have considerable beneficial effects on testimony without undermining the quality of an account. The effects of social support were examined in three studies involving children aged from 4 to 10 years of age. In each study children witnessed a live staged event and were then asked to describe what had occurred. Several types of experimental interview were conducted, each being compared to a control group of children interviewed alone. The experimental interviews typically involved the interviewing of witnesses in the presence of a peer who had not witnessed the staged event. These additional children were termed non-witnesses, their purpose during the interviews being to provide social support. The mere presence of a non-witness peer had no effect on recall. However, when the non-witness was allowed to talk with the witness about the staged event prior to recall, their subsequent presence during the interview resulted in improved recall by the witness. The sharing of information was crucial to the improved recall performance. The results are the first experimental confirmation of the beneficial effects of social support on children's free recall.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.85943
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Uncontrolled keywords: Child witness memory recall
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:21 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 08:37 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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