CMU alum Lindsay Malloy examines the role of children in the court room, presents findings

A Central Michigan University alum discusses the role of children in court cases in her lab research, “Children’s Statements in Legal Contexts: Insights from Field and Lab Research.”

Lindsay Malloy graduated from Central Michigan University in 2001 with a major in psychology and a minor in business administration. She is currently a professor at Florida International University. Malloy’s study involved three parts: false allegations, false denials and false confessions.

On Nov. 19, Malloy discussed the second and third parts of her findings.

“Sometimes, kids need to be questioned about stressful or negative events,” she said. “I’m interested in their willingness to discuss negative experiences.”

Malloy said in many court cases involving children undergoing a traumatic experience, the decision of the case comes down to the child’s word against the defendant’s word. Then, the child’s word is compared to their past disclosure patterns.

“Delayed disclosure is very common,” Malloy said. “Children often delay disclosure of abuse.”

In her research, Malloy found that in court cases where children’s statements are taken in a legal context, there is a four to 27-percent rate of recantation, meaning that the rate of the children taking their statements back is varied.

In her study, Malloy took a random sample of substantiated cases of child sexual abuse from the Los Angeles Dependency Court.

“We coded for different characteristics in the cases and found a 23.1-percent rate of recantation in them,” Malloy said. “A significant minority of children recanted their allegations.”

Reasons for children recanting their allegations could be that the child was very young and therefore greatly influenced by authority figures, or their statement was against a parent or caregiver.

In another study, Malloy looked at children’s evaluations of disclosure of an adult’s wrongdoings.

In the study, 153 maltreated children and 146 non-maltreated four to nine-year-olds were asked to answer what they would do in a possible scenario.

In the scenario, the child sees their parent doing something bad and the parent tells them not to tell anyone. Then, the studied children were asked if they would hypothetically tell their other parent or someone else what had happened.

It was found that older children in the study were more likely to tell a stranger what happened than their parent, and maltreated children didn’t show any deference to their parents when disclosing events.

For the second part of her presentation, Malloy explained that there is growing interest in the field of false confessions.

“Some groups are particularly vulnerable to making a false confession,” she said. “Youth are disproportionately likely to falsely confess to a crime.”

For this part of her research, Malloy interviewed 193 14 to 17-year-old males and asked them if they have ever confessed to a crime they did not actually do.

Her research concluded that 17 percent said they have falsely confessed and 18 percent said they have falsely pled guilty to a crime.

Malloy’s research found that the false confessions and guilty pleas could be due in part to the interrogation method used by United States Law Enforcement, called the Reid technique.

Eighty percent of subjects who Malloy interviewed said deception and threats were used against them in the interrogation process. She believes this could easily lead to a false confession or guilty plea.

White Lake junior Drue Tyler said she came to the presentation for her PSY 400 class.

“It was interesting to see what happens in the legal system when adolescents and youths are involved,” she said.

Bay City sophomore Stacy Lang said she found the presentation informative.

“I think it’s cool that (Malloy) is a CMU grad who’s had great success in the field. It’s inspiring to see the great things that can be done after graduating,” she said.


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