Committee Chair

Warren, Amye

Committee Member

Metzger, Richard L.; Ross, David F.


Dept. of Psychology


College of Arts and Sciences


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


Open court testimony poses difficulty for child witnesses required to face the defendant. Certain laws allow hearsay testimony to replace the alleged child victim's testimony. This study examines the relationship of the child's age to the relative believability of three hearsay testimony fonnats in a 2 (child witnesses: one 4-year-old and one 8-year-old) x 3 (hearsay conditions: interview of child, interviewer testimony in "gist" or summary form, or interviewer testimony in detailed, "verbatim" fonn) design. Transcripts were based on actual child sexual abuse interviews ( one 4 and one 8-year-old female) obtained for prior research with permission from Child Protective Services officials. College undergraduate students (N = 143) participated as mock jurors, each reading one of six randomly assigned hearsay transcripts. An overall verdict was rendered and believability was rated on a multidimensional scale. Jurors' ratings indicated their sensitivity to the structure of the interviews, judging the actual child interviews as consisting of more structured, leading and suggestive questions than the gist testimony. However, this was not reflected in their verdicts or ratings of overall believability of the child statements. Thus, these results indicated that "gist" adult hearsay testimony may be equally credible to the child's. Other influential factors that may affect the jurors' perceptions of credibility, such as interview quality and age stereotypes, are also discussed.


I wish to take this opportunity to recognize those who are most influential in the successes of my educational career. I extend a very special thanks to an exceptional professor, Dr. Amye Warren, whose kindness and professional expertise guided me through the perils of graduate school. I have great admiration for Amye as an outstanding individual and mentor. Thank you, Amye, for your generous contribution to my educational success and for your friendship. I wish to thank my thesis committee members, Drs. Rich Metzger and David Ross for their genuine interest, valuable information, and experience that have enriched my educational knowledge. I also wish to thank fellow students and research assistants, Julie Buck and Jennifer Kurtz, for all their valuable time and input towards the success of this project. I am so very grateful to my family and friends who have stood by me through good times and bad. I thank my husband, Greg, for all his love, patience, and endurance during this long journey of educational pursuit. I also thank my children, Kevin and Chastity, for being my main inspirations toward the success of my goals and for their endless faith in their mother's abilities. I wish to express much gratitude to my parents, Bill and Virginia Nelson, for a valuable childhood, teaching good morals and values, and consistent encouragement in my goals. And last, but definitely not least, I am thankful to my siblings and special friends for sharing their love and strength through unlimited emotional support.


M. S.; A thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Science.




Child witnesses United States; Memory in children United States; Child witnesses; Memory in children; United States



Document Type

Masters theses




v, 59 leaves



Call Number

LB2369.2 .S547 1999



Included in

Psychology Commons