A team of researchers with expertise in developmental psychology, child and family law, and forensic psychology propose a series of studies to examine honesty in young maltreated and non-maltreated children. The proposal consists four interconnected projects. The first project will examine the development of children's understanding of concepts underlying honesty, including early conceptions of the distinction between the truth and lies, the evaluation of secret-keeping regarding transgressions, and the evaluation of the obligations underlying promises. The second project will examine the determinants of honesty, varying the actions of instigators who may encourage dishonesty and recipient-interviewers who encourage honesty, and assessing characteristics of the child that may have an influence, including maltreatment status, age, and attitudes about honesty. The third project will examine the verbal and nonverbal indices of honesty in children who were coached to lie by instigators or encouraged to be truthful by recipients. The fourth project will examine whether either lay or professional adults are able to distinguish honest from dishonest children. The research will test hypotheses that maltreated children's understanding is subject to underestimation due to insensitive tasks, that maltreated children's honesty can be increased through various means of truth induction, and that maltreated children's honesty can be discriminated through multidimensional analysis of verbal and nonverbal measures. The research is unique in its potential application to the investigation and adjudication of child maltreatment claims, insofar as it is the first sustained research program to uitilize tools for assessing and influencing honesty that are potentially useful to child maltreatment professionals and to examine the utility of those tools in children who are in fact the subject of intervention. The findings have potential to improve child maltreatment practice and thus to ensure that children who do in fact need protection from maltreatment are detected and their reports believed.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Psychosocial Development, Risk and Prevention Study Section (PDRP)
Program Officer
Maholmes, Valerie
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University of Southern California
Other Domestic Higher Education
Los Angeles
United States
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Evans, Angela D; Stolzenberg, Stacia N; Lyon, Thomas D (2017) Pragmatic Failure and Referential Ambiguity when Attorneys Ask Child Witnesses ""Do You Know/Remember"" Questions. Psychol Public Policy Law 23:191-199
Stolzenberg, Stacia N; McWilliams, Kelly; Lyon, Thomas D (2017) Ask versus tell: Potential confusion when child witnesses are questioned about conversations. J Exp Psychol Appl 23:447-459
Stolzenberg, Stacia N; Lyon, Thomas D (2017) 'Where were your clothes?' Eliciting descriptions of clothing placement from children alleging sexual abuse in criminal trials and forensic interviews. Legal Criminol Psychol 22:197-212
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Cleveland, Kyndra C; Quas, Jodi A; Lyon, Thomas D (2016) Valence, Implicated Actor, and Children's Acquiescence to False Suggestions. J Appl Dev Psychol 43:1-7
Fu, Genyue; Heyman, Gail D; Lee, Kang (2016) Learning to Be Unsung Heroes: Development of Reputation Management in Two Cultures. Child Dev 87:689-99

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