Big girls don't cry: The effect of child witness demeanor on juror decisions in a child sexual abuse trial

Jonathan M. Golding, Heather M. Fryman, Dorothy F. Marsil, John A. Yozwiak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: This study investigated the effect of child witness demeanor (defined as crying) on mock jurors' decisions in a simulated First-Degree rape trial. Method: One hundred and thirty-three undergraduates serving in the role of mock jurors read a trial summary in which the primary independent variable was the demeanor of the alleged child victim (i.e., calm, teary, hysterical crying). In addition to reading the summary, participants viewed pencil drawings of the witnesses that were presented as "courtroom drawings. " Results: The results showed that the teary condition led to more guilty verdicts and a greater belief in the alleged victim than the other demeanor conditions. Conclusions: Findings from this study indicate that demeanor can impact the perception of a child who is an alleged sexual assault victim in court. However, it is not simply the case that any display of demeanor will lead to a positive outcome for the alleged victim. Instead, it appears that too little or too much emotion from the alleged child victim negatively affected credibility in the eyes of the mock jurors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1311-1321
Number of pages11
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Volume27
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2003

Keywords

  • Child sexual assault
  • Demeanor
  • Victim believability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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