Ceci Shapes Judicial Policy on Testimony of Children: For More Than 25 Years, Stephen Ceci Has Probed the Accuracy of Testimony Given by Children. His Credibility as a Researcher Enables Him to Have a Great Impact on How Judges Perceive the Information Garnered by Court Interviewers and Investigators

By Winter, Metta | Human Ecology, August 2005 | Go to article overview

Ceci Shapes Judicial Policy on Testimony of Children: For More Than 25 Years, Stephen Ceci Has Probed the Accuracy of Testimony Given by Children. His Credibility as a Researcher Enables Him to Have a Great Impact on How Judges Perceive the Information Garnered by Court Interviewers and Investigators


Winter, Metta, Human Ecology


When Stephen J. Ceci addresses members of the Family Law Association, he knows at least one thing most likely to be said about him.

"Judges who introduce me almost always say to the audience, 'I'll save you the bother of putting Dr. Ceci in your Rolodex; he isn't for hire,'" says the Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology in the Department of Human Development, who has turned down more than 1,000 offers from organizations as big as the Boy Scouts of America, the YMCA, and the Catholic Church and celebrities as high profile as Woody Allen and Michael Jackson.

Why does Ceci refuse to be an expert witness? Because, he says, he learned early on that the adversarial atmosphere of the courtroom isn't the best venue for conveying science. And in steadfastly refusing to profit from his work, Ceci has gained the respect of judges across North America and Europe. They cite his publications in their decisions and invite him back again and again to give talks or seminars based on the latest research in children's testimonial competence and accuracy.

"Judges are understandably very wary of people who may have an alternative motive, so I never testify for either side," Ceci says, by way of explaining one of the reasons why--during the past 27 years--he has had such an impact on judicial policy.

Instead, Ceci offers the latest research findings from studies conducted in his own laboratory and those of other scientists--most notably his frequent collaborator Maggie Bruck, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine--to illuminate the issues that arise when law enforcement officers, social workers, court-appointed evaluators, lawyers, and judges deal with the testimony of children.

Misconceptions abound. Ceci's goal is to convey what the science shows about, for example, the way that children disclose whether they have been abused.

For more than 20 years, a group of beliefs that has come to be called the Child Sex Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS) has been accepted as true. The CSAAS posits that when children are abused, they delay reporting it--sometimes for decades. When they are asked directly, they will deny any abuse has occurred; yet after repeated questioning, they gradually begin to give fragmentary disclosures, little bits and pieces about how they were abused. Next, they recant altogether. Only later, when they are in what is perceived to be a psychologically safe situation, do they give a full and elaborate disclosure.

The CSAAS is routinely used by expert witnesses for both the defense and the prosecution.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"So the first thing I tell judges is that neither side is right, that the CSAAS doesn't accurately capture the way abused kids disclose what happened to them," Ceci says. In analyses of dozens of published studies, Ceci, Bruck, and Kamala London of Johns Hopkins University separated out the methodologically sound studies on children's mode of disclosure from the abundance of poorly conducted ones and found that the only part of the CSAAS that is valid is that abused children typically deny any abuse has occurred when first questioned. The high-quality studies showed that children (even into adulthood) delay reporting what happened to them. And while it is true that children don't tend to spontaneously tell of their abuse, data show that the vast majority do tell, in full detail, when explicitly asked.

"It's important for judges to know what science shows, because this set of invalid beliefs animates the whole investigatory process," Ceci points out. "It motivates investigators and interviewers to pursue reluctant children, who may be reluctant because nothing actually happened."

Social workers and police officers who hold to the beliefs of the CSAAS will continue to question a child who, when asked directly, denies being abused. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Ceci Shapes Judicial Policy on Testimony of Children: For More Than 25 Years, Stephen Ceci Has Probed the Accuracy of Testimony Given by Children. His Credibility as a Researcher Enables Him to Have a Great Impact on How Judges Perceive the Information Garnered by Court Interviewers and Investigators
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.