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Children with mental retardation are more likely to be abused than the general population, yet are often denied access to the justice system. Research on children without mental retardation has revealed skepticism as to their reliability as witnesses in the court of law. Even more so, children with mental retardation face the issue of credibility because of their age and disability. This study assesses attorneys' perceptions of child witnesses with mental retardation. Thirty-nine criminal attorneys completed a 33-item questionnaire designed to assess their opinions of the abilities of adults and of children with and without mental retardation to recall and communicate information in the forensic context. Results revealed that attorneys perceived child witnesses as less credible and more suggestible than adult witnesses. Moreover, analyses indicated that child witnesses with mental retardation were also perceived as less credible and more suggestible than child witnesses without mental retardation.

Publication Citation

33 J. Psychiatry & L. 5 (2005).