The effects of the putative confession and parent suggestion on children's disclosure of a minor transgression

Elizabeth B. Rush, Stacia Roosevelt, Jodi A. Quas, Thomas D. Lyon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: This study examined the effects of the putative confession (telling the child that an adult ‘told me everything that happened and he wants you to tell the truth’) on children's disclosure of a minor transgression after having been questioned by their parents in a suggestive or non-suggestive manner. Methods: Children (N = 188; 4–7-year-olds) played with a confederate, and while doing so, for half of the children, toys broke. Parents then questioned their children about what occurred, and half of the parents were given additional scripted suggestive questions. Finally, children completed a mock forensic investigative interview. Results: Children given the putative confession were 1.6 times more likely in free recall to disclose truthfully that toys had broken. Among children who failed to disclose during free recall, those who received the putative confession were 1.9 times more likely when asked yes/no questions to disclose true breakage. The putative confession did not decrease accuracy, and children who received the putative confession were 2.6 times less likely to report false toy play. Parent suggestion did not adversely affect the efficacy of the putative confession. Conclusions: The current study demonstrates that children are often quite reticent to disclose transgressions and that the putative confession is a promising avenue for increasing children's comfort with disclosing and minimizing their tendency to report false details, even in the face of suggestive questioning by parents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-73
Number of pages14
JournalLegal and Criminological Psychology
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

Keywords

  • disclosure
  • parent influence
  • putative confession
  • suggestion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Applied Psychology

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