U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Abused and Neglected Children in Court: Knowledge and Attitudes

NCJ Number
Stephanie D. Block; Howard Oran; Diane Oran; Nikki Baumrind; Gail S. Goodman
Date Published
September 2010
12 pages
Based on interviews of 85 maltreated children in a jurisdiction where children regularly attend their dependency hearings that determine placement decisions, this study examined the children's knowledge and attitudes regarding their court experiences, as well as whether the children desired greater involvement in dependency court decisions regarding their placement.
The study found that the children's mean level of knowledge about the court and its proceedings was quite low and somewhat related to age. Both child and court-related factors predicted attitudes toward the court experience. Regarding child factors, older children were more likely than younger ones to express negative attitudes toward dependency court. When age was statistically controlled, knowledge was related to more positive attitudes toward dependency court. Contrary to prediction, minorities did not have especially negative attitudes toward the dependency court system. The strongest predictor of children's attitudes toward the dependency court was their state anxiety; children who were more anxious at the conclusion of court proceedings had more negative attitudes toward the court experience. Attachment-related anxiety and uncertainty about their future living arrangements related to court outcomes may be factors in negative attitudes about the court. The findings suggest that maltreated children involved in dependency hearings may benefit from being given age-appropriate information about the legal proceedings and its implications for their future. Since the findings indicate that children often want to have greater influence in dependency court decisions, they could benefit from having the opportunity to directly or indirectly, through their attorneys, to express their wishes and concerns. Immediately after attending their dependency court hearings, the children, who were 7-10 years old, were interviewed about their knowledge of, attitudes toward, and participation in the dependency court. Information was also obtained from the children's court files. 5 tables, 49 references, and appended questionnaire