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Children's Knowledge of Legal Terminology

NCJ Number
Law and Human Behavior Volume: 14 Issue: 6 Dated: (1990) Pages: 523-535
K Saywitz; C Jaenicke; L Camparo
Date Published
13 pages
This study examines age-related patterns in communicative abilities relevant to providing testimony, specifically, knowledge of legal terms commonly used with children in court.
Subjects for this study were 60 public school students comprising three groups of 20 each in kindergarten, third, and sixth grades. Grade-related patterns emerged in children's knowledge of legal terms and in their misunderstanding of terms. Results suggest that age-appropriate word choice in the examination of child witnesses may be an important factor in eliciting accurate testimony. The authors also explored potential mediators of the relation between age and accurate knowledge of legal terminology (i.e., verbal skills, television viewing of court-related programs, direct experience with the legal system). The authors discuss implications for future research, court preparation, and training of legal professionals in age-appropriate examination of children. Tables, footnote, references