SAGE Journal Articles

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False Memories 

Quas, J., Goodman, G., Ghetti, S., & Redlich, A. (2000). Questioning the Child Witness: What Can We Conclude from the Research Thus Far? Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 223-249.


In recent years, increasing numbers of studies have investigated children's memory, suggestibility, and false event reports. The purpose of this article is to highlight key findings from and implications of this research for interviewing child witnesses. First, developmental changes in children's memory and suggestibility are discussed. Second, theory and research concerning relations between emotional distress and children's memory are reviewed, with an emphasis on methodological differences that have led to varied results across studies. Third is a description of factors associated with the context of an interview that may influence children's susceptibility to false suggestions. Fourth, recent studies are described concerning individual differences in children's mnemonic capabilities, suggestibility, and false memories. At the end of the article, recommendations are provided about what can and cannot be concluded from research on questioning child witnesses.


Giles, J. W., Gopnik, A., & Heyman, G. D. (2002). Source monitoring reduces the suggestibility of preschool children. Psychological Science, 13, 288-291.


A significant body of research suggests children are more suggestible to leading questions than adults. Although there are several explanations as to why children might be more suggestible, the authors focus on the idea of source monitoring for this particular study. To determine if increases in suggestibility were due to source monitoring errors, preschool children were presented with a short silent video accompanied by a story narrated by the researcher. Children were asked questions about the source of information (did you learn about this from the video or the narration) as well as about the details of the story. The results indicate performing the source monitoring task helped to decrease suggestibility on a later task involving erroneous information. The authors suggest when children were asked to think about the source of the information first, they engage in more effortful processing leading to more accurate memory.

Discussion Questions:

  1. One of the interesting findings from this study was that there were no differences between the age groups – young children were just as able as older children to accurately recall the source of information and showed similar levels of resistance to suggestibility. Earlier studies have shown children’s ability to resist misinformation develops between the ages of 3 and 6, why do you think we don’t see age differences here?
  2. What are ways in which these findings could be used for child witnesses in court cases?
  3. Theory of mind typically develops between the ages of 3 and 4. The authors suggest there might be a link between the suggestibility tasks used here and the development of theory of mind. Do you think we would see changes in children’s responses to theory of mind tasks (e.g., the Sally/Ann task, Smartie task) if they perform the suggestibility task first?

SES and Language 

Stanton-Chapman, T. L., Chapman, D. A., Kaiser, A. P., & Hancock, T. B. (2004). Cumulative risk and low-income children’s language development. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 24, 227-237.


The goal of this study was to determine if biological and environmental risk factors increased the likelihood of a child developing a specific language impairment. The authors were interested in looking at the cumulative effect of these risk factors have on language development in low-income children. Both receptive and expressive language abilities of 3-year-old children enrolled in a Head Start program were measured along with several risk factors (e.g., maternal education, tobacco use, low birth weight). On average, children were exposed to 2.3 risk factors. Cumulative risk only accounted for 6.6% of the variance in girls and 1.4% of the variance in boys suggesting there are a significant number of other factors not accounted for by these risks. However, children exposed to five or more risk factors were more likely to be identified as having low language abilities.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Interestingly, the authors found that although males typically have more difficulty with language, the boys in this study were actually impacted less by risk factors. Why do you think females are more likely to be impacted by an increase in the number of risk factors?
  2. The results suggest between 1.4% and 6.6% of the variance was being accounted for by cumulative risk. This tells us that more than 90% to 95% of what accounts for language scores is caused by something other than these risk factors. What are other variables that might impact language abilities?
  3. This sample used only children who are part of the Head Start program. Do you think the effects would different for a sample of children from more affluent preschool programs or children not enrolled in preschool programs?