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Q: Proving Children Tell The Truth ( Answered,   1 Comment )
Subject: Proving Children Tell The Truth
Category: Health > Children
Asked by: greatquestion-ga
List Price: $30.00
Posted: 02 Dec 2003 19:42 PST
Expires: 01 Jan 2004 19:42 PST
Question ID: 282896
What proof is there that a 7-year old would not lie about his parents
abusing him?  I am not looking for legal advice.  I am looking for
experts and sources who have studied or proven that 7-year old
children tell the truth about abuse...especially if they provide
details about drugs and ways to defend themselves against violence
that normally would not be known by 7-year olds.

I am looking for research that would prove that if a 7-year old tells
a medical doctor about abuse...that studies show that the average
7-year old is at an age where they are still "pure" enough to tell the
truth...especially about such a horrible situation.

Request for Question Clarification by pinkfreud-ga on 02 Dec 2003 19:57 PST
Are there allegations of sexual abuse here, or is the abuse that is
being reported of a nonsexual nature?
Subject: Re: Proving Children Tell The Truth
Answered By: missy-ga on 03 Dec 2003 14:39 PST
Hi there,

The fact is, children do sometimes deliberately lie.  They also can
say untrue things *without* lying - younger children may say things
they wish were true or believe are true, in order to stay out of
trouble or please a parent or other authority figure.  Whether or not
a child lies has absolutely nothing to do with ?purity? ? it?s a
matter of intellectual and emotional maturity.

?How does age affect honesty?
Children as young as 4 years old tell deliberate lies to get out of
trouble. Up to age 8, fear of parent disapproval will discourage
lying. Adolescents react more to the consequences, so they need to
have logical consequences for lying. Not until a child is a teenager
does he or she begin to understand how lying destroys trust. These are
abstract concepts, and abstract reasoning does not develop until this

Dealing With Children?s Lies
Barbara Jessing, MS, CPC

According to the California Growth Study:

-- more than one-third of girls ages three and one half to six lie
-- after age six less than one-third of girls lie 
-- one-third of boys between ages three and one half and eight lie
-- after age eight less than one third of boys lie

Although ?children don?t lie? was once a popular bit of ?common
knowledge? in professional circles, Dr. Richard A. Gardner calls the
theory ?nonsense?. There is no "pure" age at which it can be 100 %
certain that a child is not lying.

Book Review: Protocols for the Sex-Abuse Evaluation

According to the American Academy of  Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
the possibility of false allegations (and false denials) of abuse must
always be taken into account.

[Everson, Mark, Ph.D. and Barbara Boat, Ph.D, False Allegations of
Sexual Abuse by Children and Adolescents. American Academy of Child
and Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 28, 2:230-235, 1989. ]

One AACP paper cites numerous studies indicating that children can and
do lie about abuse:

?Children may make false statements in psychiatric evaluations.
Sometimes they make false denials regarding abuse (Sgroi, 1982;
Sorenson and Snow, 1991; Summit, 1983). Children may make a false
denial or recant a previous disclosure for many reasons, including
pressure from the perpetrator or the family and fear of the judicial
process. The child may "forget" what happened, may minimize the abuse,
or may defend against bad feelings by empowering himself ("He used to
touch me but I hit him and ran away."). The child may deny the abuse
because of fear of having done something wrong ("I was afraid you
wouldn't love me if you knew what I did.").

Children may also make false allegations. Bernet (1993) reviewed this topic and
developed a differential diagnosis of abuse allegations. Benedek and
Schetky (1985), Everson and Boat (1989), Gardner (1992, 1995), Goodwin
et al. (1978, 1980), Quinn (1991), Schuman (1986, 1987), and Yates and
Musty (1988) have contributed to the literature on this issue. The
evaluation of these children is complex because there are a number of
distinct mental processes,
both conscious and unconscious, that may result in false allegations.
Long before the current interest in false allegations, Healy and Healy
(1915) described how some of the children they evaluated in the first
juvenile court clinic manifested pathological lying in making
allegations of abuse. Green (1986) described how a delusional mother,
who believed that her ex-husband had
been molesting their daughter, induced the girl to state that the
father had rubbed against her in bed. Clawar and Rivlin (1991)
presented many examples of "programming" of children, especially in
custody disputes. In some cases inept interviewers, by repeatedly
asking leading or suggestive questions, have induced children to make
false allegations of abuse. Bernet (1993) described how children may
knowingly lie about abuse. Young children may tell tall tales and
these innocent lies may result in false allegations of abuse.?

Practice Parameters For the Forensic Examination of Children and
Adolescents Who May Have Been Physically or Sexually Abused

Dr. William Bernet illustrates this further in a 1989 case study:

"Children can be induced to make elaborate, detailed false statements
after being subjected to repetitive, suggestive, and leading questions
during a single Interview."

"Children who were not abused may make false allegations through a
number of different mental mechanisms (Bernet, 1993). In this case, an
elaborate, detailed allegation was created through the use of
repetitive, suggestive questioning."

The case study goes on to describe how a child repeatedly questioned
about an allegation of abuse may shape his or her statement to suit
the expectations of the questioner.  If it appears the questioner is
expecting the child to say that there was in fact abuse, the child
will say so, in order to please the questioner.

Case Study: of Abuse Created in a Single Interview ? William Bernet, MD

However?though it is not impossible for a child to lie about
allegations of abuse, it is rare.

Everson and Boat found that just 2% of sexual abuse allegations are
false.  False allegations of non-sexual abuse made by children are
similarly rare ? it is unusual for a young child to spontaneously
report (and describe) abuse unless he is indeed being abused.

[ Dealing With Child Abuse ]

(Page 11 of the noted document describes how to handle a spontaneous
disclosure of abuse, including appropriate follow-up questions.  It is
vitally important to ensure that the child is not being inadvertantly
led or coached.)

The National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse reported that in 1994,
there were one million substantiated reports of child abuse and
neglect.  The median age of the vicitm was just 7 years old, and forms
of abuse were distributed as follows:

neglect, 45%
physical abuse, 26%
sexual abuse, 11%
emotional abuse, 3%
unspecified cases, 16%

The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect reported:

77% of the victims were abused by parents
12% by other relatives
5% by non-caretakers
2% by foster parents

[ Practice Parameters For the Forensic Examination of Children and
Adolescents Who May Have Been Physically or Sexually Abused  ]

Other sources:

Lying In Children And What To Do About It. ? by Dr. Thomas Houle

What To Do About Lying 

Innocence Lost: The Plea 

Against Innocence:  The truth about child abuse and the truth about children
Margaret Talbot  - The New Republic - 03/15/1999 

Some Myths of Maltreatment Allegations and Caregiver Risk
by Marian Ruth Turner, Coalition on Provider Vulnerability

Harvard Law School Conference -- A special report
By Carol Clairmont Weissbrod 

Ultimately, it is *improbable* that a child would lie about being
abused, but *not* impossible.  If the child in question has come to
you of his own accord to disclose abuse, treat it as truth and report
it to the relevant authorities so that they may investigate.


Search terms:  [ "do children lie" abuse ], [ "false allegations" abuse ], 
[ "children lie" age ], [ "children don't lie" abuse ]

Clarification of Answer by missy-ga on 03 Dec 2003 15:36 PST
My apologies, there is a typo.  The Bernet case study was conducted in
*1999*, not 1989.


Request for Answer Clarification by greatquestion-ga on 03 Dec 2003 18:45 PST

Thank you.  I have a clarification.  When you talk about Everson and
Boat...what document does that come from?

I am looking for all materials that show that lying about child abuse
rarely happens.  This child has made the allegations in detail about
his parents to a medical doctor.  The parents (who I know to be
violent) are denying and saying the child was lying.  Now, the child
(who still lives with the parents) is terrified and denying abuse.

Also, I will be traveling with sparce Internet access until Tuesday
morning.  It will be my goal to check my email between now and then. 
But, if I don't...please know that you are doing a great job and we
will reconnect Tuesday or before.

Thank you.

Clarification of Answer by missy-ga on 03 Dec 2003 20:54 PST
Hello again,

I'm sorry, I should have cited that document properly again - I had
cited it earlier on in the answer:

Everson, Mark, Ph.D. and Barbara Boat, Ph.D, False Allegations of
Sexual Abuse by Children and Adolescents. American Academy of Child
and Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 28, 2:230-235, 1989.

It should also be noted that this AACAP paper:

Practice Parameters For the Forensic Examination of Children and
Adolescents Who May Have Been Physically or Sexually Abused

...cites the following study which discusses "false denials" (in which
an abused child discloses the abuse, then later recants in order to
defuse the anger directed at him by his abusers):

Sgroi, S.M., Porter, F. & Blick, L.
 1982 Validation of child sexual abuse. Handbook of clinical
intervention in child sexual abuse. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath, p. 39

Although the following abstract specifically discusses sexual abuse,
it has been cited in physical abuse literature as well:

"It has been reported that nearly 75% of sexual abuse victims
initially deny abuse, and that nearly 25% eventually recant their
allegations (Sorenson & Snow, 1991). The present study examined
disclosures in 234 sexual abuse cases validated by Protective Services
in El Paso, Texas. Denial of abuse occurred in 6% of cases, and
recantation in 4% of cases in which a child had already disclosed
abuse. Four of the eight victims who recanted appeared to do so in
response to pressure from a caretaker."

How do children tell? The disclosure process in child sexual abuse.
Bradley AR, Wood JM.
Child Abuse Negl. 1996 Sep;20(9):881-91
Department of Psychology, University of Texas at El Paso 79968, USA.

The following abstracts regarding the possibility of lying in abuse
cases may also be of interest:

Robertson WK, Milner JS. 
Detection of conscious deception using the Child Abuse Potential
Inventory lie scale.
J Pers Assess. 1985 Oct;49(5):541-4.

Milner JS. 
Development of a lie scale for the Child Abuse Potential Inventory.
Psychol Rep. 1982 Jun;50(3 Pt 1):871-4. No abstract available. 


I do have a rather personal interest in this topic, and cannot stress
enough how vital it is that this child's disclosure be *immediately
reported to the proper authorities*.    The available research does
not support the premise that one can unequivocally determine whether
or not a child could lie about his disclosure based on a few studies
noting that children rarely lie about abuse.

I beg your pardon for my bluntness, but those studies will not prove
anything about this child's state of mind or home situation, and they
will not prove that this child is or is not lying.  The case needs to
be investigated thoroughly by the proper authorities and he needs to
be seen by a competent child psychiatrist or child psychologist to
determine the validity of his previous disclosure.  *Only* a
professional can do that.

In the United States, physicians are legally obligated to report ALL
allegations of abuse to the proper authorities, so that an
investigation may be conducted.  This should be done without delay. 
The longer reporting waits, the harder it will be to get to the truth.

Subject: Re: Proving Children Tell The Truth
From: pinkfreud-ga on 03 Dec 2003 16:16 PST
You may be interested in reading an excellent answer to a related
question that was given by my good friend and Google Answers
colleague, bobbie7-ga:

Google Answers: Do Five Year Olds Lie?

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