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Examining Adolescents' and Their Parents' Conceptual and Practical Knowledge of Public Interrogation: A Family Dyad Approach

NCJ Number
Journal of Youth and Adolescence Volume: 37 Issue: 6 Dated: July 2008 Pages: 685-698
Jennifer L. Woolard; Hayley M.D. Cleary; Samantha A.S. Harvell; Rusan Chen
Date Published
July 2008
14 pages
This study examined whether parents had sufficient knowledge about police interrogation procedures and tactics to compensate for their adolescent children's lack of knowledge in this area, such that parents could effectively protect their children's rights/interests in the course of a police interrogation and act as a buffer against their children's vulnerability to coercive interrogation tactics.
Findings indicate that parents know more than their younger adolescent children about the content of the Miranda warning and its implications for the rights of individuals in police custody; however, parents may not know more than their adolescent children about police strategies for luring youth into an interrogation or the parameters for parental action to protect their children from manipulative and coercive police interrogation. Consistent with much of the prior research, older youth showed better conceptual, behavioral, and practical understanding of police interrogation procedures than younger youth, regardless of socioeconomic status and demographic background. For both parents and youth, IQ was predictive of knowledge about police interrogation procedures. There was some advantage in knowledge about police interrogations for youth and parents with prior justice experience. Certain family characteristics predicted an insufficient knowledge of police interrogation parameters and practices. These included having young children, parents of a minority race, and either parents or youth having lower IQ scores. These findings may argue for relevant educational interventions for both parents and youth; however, any approach for addressing knowledge gaps for parents and youth regarding police interrogations must be evaluated for their practical effect and retention over time. The study sample consisted of a racially diverse urban/suburban convenience sample of 77 11-13 year-olds and their parents. Both parents and youth completed a semistructured interview on knowledge of legal rights and police practices regarding interrogations. 5 tables and 48 references