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Modifications of the courtroom environment have been proposed to enhance the ability of child witnesses to offer complete and accurate testimony and reduce system-induced stress. However, these interventions have often been conceived without the benefit of empirical data demonstrating intervention efficacy. The present study examines the effects of the courtroom context on children's memory and anxiety. Eighty-one eight- to ten-year-olds participated in a staged event involving bodily touch, and two weeks later their memory for the event was tested. Half of the children were questioned in a mock courtroom in a university law school, and half were questioned in a small, private room adjacent to the courtroom. Children's heart rate was monitored throughout questioning. Results indicated that children questioned in the courtroom showed impaired memory performance and greater heart rate variability, indicative of a stress response, when compared with children interviewed in the small, private room.

Publication Citation

31 J. Psychiatry & L. 67 (2003).