Date of Award

1-1-2000

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Psychology

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Lisbeth Pike

Second Advisor

Elaine Pascoe

Third Advisor

Nerida Beaumont

Abstract

Literature review: The following review outlines the broad area of children and suggestibility with a focus on children with intellectual disabilities. Key determinants of suggestibility including cognitive, social and stress factors underpinning the phenomenon are examined. Secondly, methodological issues such as poor ecological validity and generaliseability to the child-victim context are discussed. Relevant studies in the field are examined in light of these methodological issues. The implications of generalising from ecologically invalid studies for legal and psychological professionals are discussed. Finally, future directions for research such as effects of different ages, differences in ethnicity and IQ differences on suggestibility are outlined. Research report: This study examined the influence of participation and suggestive questioning on 9-11 year-old children's reports based on a study by Rudy & Goodman (1991). Rudy and Goodman's design was used to replicate the study with a larger sample and examine the variable of intellectual impairment and suggestibility. Fifty-seven children (26 mildly intellectually impaired and 31 non-impaired children) were assigned either to a participant or observer role. The participant child interacted with an unfamiliar male assistant while the observer watched. One week later children were individually interviewed about the experience with the assistant using an interview schedule developed by Rudy and Goodman (1991). The interview schedule measured children's memory using the following question types: free recall; specific; misleading and correctly leading questions. Questions which had implications of abuse were also measured. Results were analysed using MANOV A's, ANOV A's and t-tests. Overall, participation was found to be unrelated to suggestibility. Children without intellectual impairments recalled more information and were more accurate on both specific and misleading questions than intellectually impaired children. However intellectually impaired children were found to be equally as resistant to suggestibility as non-impaired children when questions were specific and about the person involved or implicated abuse. The implications of intellectually impaired children's testimonies for psychological and legal contexts are discussed.

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