How can courts help children give a reliable testimony?

On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2021 | Criminal Law |

Sometimes, a case can hinge on witness testimony. What can you do if that witness happens to be a child? According to the American Bar Association, children can make reliable witnesses when approached appropriately.

Issues begin to arise when the adults involved do not know how to communicate effectively with children.

Do not use negative language

Negative language, especially double negatives, confuses kids. When adults use negatives or double negatives, they only respond correctly about 50% of the time. Adults also tend to understand positive and active language better than negatives.

When it comes to passive language, children cannot always understand it because they process sentences in the order of the words. If you use passive language, they may give you an entirely different answer. Simple sentence structure allows younger people to process the language easier.

Remain simple with children

Children tend to be literal. They have specific meanings for different words. For example, when someone says house, you may think of any type of home. For example, you may consider an apartment, trailer or condo a house. On the other hand, children may only see a traditional house and refer to apartments as apartments and trailers as trailers.

Pronouns may be confusing to children too. To avoid confusion, always use the names of objects and people.

Stay clear and focused

Children have difficulty following conversations if the focus shifts suddenly. If your representation can define each topic, then the witness should be able to follow it. For example, children need to hear that topic one finished and now they need to talk about topic two.

Children can be reliable witnesses for your case as long as those questioning them understand child psychology and behavior.