Date of Graduation

Spring 2013

Degree

Master of Science in Early Childhood and Family Development

Department

Early Childhood and Family Development

Committee Chair

Joanna Cemore Brigden

Keywords

child witness, developmentally appropriate practice, attorney attitudes, child witness rights, Missouri Child Witness Protection Act

Subject Categories

Child Psychology

Abstract

There is no question that child witnesses are at a disadvantage in the courtroom, where they are confronted with stressful environments and confusing, and often personal, questions from relative strangers. The use of developmentally appropriate practices by attorneys can improve a child's testimony and experience on the stand. This study used survey data to assess the attitudes and practices of Missouri attorneys (n = 82) regarding developmentally appropriate interactions with child witnesses, and investigate their familiarity with the Missouri Child Witness Protection Act. A chi-squared test was used to examine the difference in attitude between prosecuting and defense attorneys. The results showed that prior to 2009 79.5% of Missouri attorneys employed some of the developmentally appropriate practices listed in the Missouri Child Witness Protection Act. Although most (55.4%) of attorneys were familiar with the Child Witness Protection Act prior to the survey, 44.6% were not. A significant difference in attitude was also found (p < 0.001) between prosecuting and defense attorneys regarding their concern that the Missouri Child Witness Protection Act infringed upon the rights of the defendant, with prosecutors expressing no concern and the majority of defenders expressing concern. The results can be used to assess training and the visibility of the Missouri Child Witness Protection Act among Missouri's attorneys.

Copyright

© Rebecca Ann Pearson

Campus Only

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