May 7, 2012

From an exchange with Stephen Ceci, author (with Maggie Bruck) of the landmark “Jeopardy in the Courtroom: A Scientific Analysis of Children’s Testimony” (1995):

Q: What may have happened to the child-witnesses as a result of being so profoundly misdiagnosed? One Little Rascals child-witness who responded anonymously to an advertisement I placed in the Edenton paper continues to say she was abused by Bob Kelly, although she admits to doubts about the female defendants.

A: We lack good scientific data on the long-term beliefs of individuals who as children were suggestively interviewed. A handful of studies, none of which resemble allegations of sexual abuse, seem to indicate that they grow up with the belief that they were abused, replete with the same psychological sequelae of true abuse survivors.

But you’ll note I use phrases such as “seem to indicate,” because the data are not uniform or consistent and the scenarios are not sex abuse ones. I think many, perhaps most, memory researchers would expect someone who was convinced as a child that he or she was victimized to grow into an adult with the same problems seen in actual victims, e.g., distrust of authority figures, insecurity, etc..

What extreme caution Dr. Ceci, an unsurpassed authority on child abuse, uses not to present theory and speculation as fact…. If only the therapists and theoreticians behind the day-care-abuse mania had shown half the professional uncertainty….