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Psychology, Public Policy, and Law - Vol 23, Iss 2

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Psychology, Public Policy, and Law Psychology, Public Policy, and Law focuses on the links between psychology as a science and public policy and law.
Copyright 2017 American Psychological Association
  • Juvenile sexual crime reporting rates are not influenced by juvenile sex offender registration policies.
    National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) data on juvenile sexual crime reports originating in 4 states were used to assess the association between 4 different juvenile sex offender registration policies and juvenile sexual crime reports. Autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) analyses revealed no significant changes from before to after the implantation of juvenile registry requirements, suggesting that none of the tested policies influenced juvenile sexual crime reports. These results are commensurate with the only study evaluating juvenile sex offender registration on first-time sexual crimes and with the broader literature evaluating (and failing to find) an association between juvenile sex offender registration enactment and juvenile sexual offense recidivism rates. Juvenile sex offender registration policies were implemented with the primary aim of improving public safety. To date, no published studies support any public safety effect associated with juvenile sex offender registration policies. The current findings, when coupled with the larger literature base, support efforts to exclude juveniles from state and federal registration policies. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • What they don’t know can hurt them: Mothers’ legal knowledge and youth re-offending.
    Juvenile offenders may be too young to manage the terms of their probation independently; a parent’s participation in the probationary process is critical for youths’ successful transition to crime desistence. However, a parent’s capacity for support during his or her child’s legal process may depend on the parent’s knowledge of how the justice system operates. The present study is the first to quantify mothers’ knowledge of the juvenile justice system. The authors examine the association between mothers’ legal knowledge, legal participation, and youth re-offending using a longitudinal sample of 324 dyads (total N = 648) of mothers and their sons, all first-time juvenile offenders. Results indicate that mothers averaged a 66% out of 100% on a test of legal knowledge. Importantly, those mothers who knew the least about the system also participated the least in their son’s legal process, and mothers who participated the least had sons who self-reported re-offending more within the first year after his arrest. Practitioners are encouraged to educate parents of juvenile offenders about their rights and responsibilities in the courtroom and on probation, to create meaningful avenues for parental involvement, and to set youth up for success after a first arrest. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Legal responses to nonconsensual pornography: Current policy in the United States and future directions for research.
    Technological advances have created new avenues for the perpetration of sexual violence. The widespread availability of cameras has made it easier to take covert recordings of an individual’s intimate body parts, and whether sexually explicit images are recorded with or without an individual’s consent, growing access to the Internet has facilitated the nonconsensual dissemination of those images. Yet criminal laws have not kept pace with technology in most jurisdictions across the United States, and victims of nonconsensual pornography typically have no avenue by which to seek justice. There have been efforts to reform laws in a variety of jurisdictions, some successful but others not. The present study examines the extent to which laws across the United States address nonconsensual pornography. Results reveal that current laws are plagued with a variety of caveats that make prosecution of nonconsensual pornography difficult, suggesting that legal reform addressing this problem has been insufficient. This research calls for increased attention to the links between policy and criminal justice management of the issue. In particular, theories from feminist criminology and psychology are used to explore how policy development related to nonconsensual pornography could be influenced by broader structural features of society. Further empirical study is needed to both advance the social science literature related to violence against women and guide policymakers as they navigate this rapidly changing area of law. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Twenty-six years prosecuting historic child sexual abuse cases: Has anything changed?
    In many common-law jurisdictions around the world, criminal courts are facing or will soon face the unmitigated challenge of prosecuting cases of child sexual abuse that are reported to have happened in the past, often decades earlier. In Canada, criminal prosecutions of historic child sexual abuse (HCSA) have been common for a long time, providing an opportunity to study changes over time in such prosecutions. In the current research, we coded 3,035 HCSA complaints on 12 variables and looked at changes in those variables between 1986 and 2012. Across court dates, the average age of the complainant when the alleged offense began increased, duration decreased, frequency decreased, intrusiveness decreased, and length of delay to criminal court decreased from the late 1990s. Although guilty pleas, convictions, and guilty verdicts decreased through the 1990s, there was an increase in all 3 beginning in the early 2000s. Length of incarceration increased for those convicted. These data are discussed in the context of education, legal change, and social attitudes toward delayed reporting of child sexual abuse. Policy implications are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • The attrition of indigenous and non-indigenous child sexual abuse cases in two Australian jurisdictions.
    Indigenous children are significantly more likely to be victims of sexual abuse than non-Indigenous children. To investigate justice outcomes for Indigenous children, we aimed in this study to compare Indigenous versus non-Indigenous cases of suspected child sexual abuse as they proceed through the criminal justice system in 2 Australian jurisdictions. In Study 1, case progression of the 2 groups was compared at the following 5 stages: Forensic disclosure (child disclosed to police in a forensic interview), case is charged, case is proceeded by public prosecutors, case goes to court, and conviction. The results revealed that in both jurisdictions, Indigenous children were less likely than non-Indigenous children to make an allegation of abuse and to have the case proceeded by public prosecutors. These findings suggest that it was more difficult for Indigenous cases of suspected child sexual abuse to proceed through the criminal justice system. A second study investigated which case characteristics predicted forensic disclosure. Previous disclosure by the child and the availability of a corroborating witness were significant predictors of a case having evidence in the form of a forensic disclosure, in both jurisdictions. In conclusion, cases for Indigenous children were less likely to have evidence in the form of a forensic disclosure than non-Indigenous children, and community related variables significantly predicted abuse allegations, in both cohorts. If an Indigenous child did not make an allegation of abuse within the community, the child was unlikely to make an allegation of abuse to police. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Pragmatic failure and referential ambiguity when attorneys ask child witnesses “do you know/remember” questions.
    “Do you know” and “Do you remember” (DYK/R) questions explicitly ask whether one knows or remembers some information while implicitly asking for that information. This study examined how 4- to 9-year-old (N = 104) children testifying in child sexual abuse cases responded to DYK/R wh- (who, what, where, why, how, and which) and yes/no questions. When asked DYK/R questions containing an implicit wh- question requesting information, children often provided unelaborated “yes” responses. Attorneys’ follow-up questions suggested that children usually misunderstood the pragmatics of the questions. When DYK/R questions contained an implicit yes/no question, unelaborated “yes” or “no” responses could be responding to the explicit or the implicit questions resulting in referentially ambiguous responses. Children often provided referentially ambiguous responses and attorneys usually failed to disambiguate children’s answers. Although pragmatic failure following DYK/R wh- questions decreased with age, the likelihood of referential ambiguity following DYK/R yes/no questions did not. The results highlight the risks of serious miscommunications caused by pragmatic misunderstanding and referential ambiguity when children testify. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Challenging the credibility of alleged victims of child sexual abuse in Scottish courts.
    This study examined the effects of credibility-challenging questions (n = 2,729) on 62 5- to 17-year-olds’ testimony in child sexual abuse cases in Scotland by categorizing the type, source, and content of the credibility-challenging questions defense lawyers asked and assessing how children responded. Credibility-challenging questions comprised 14.9% of all questions asked during cross-examination. Of defense lawyers’ credibility-challenging questions, 77.8% focused generally on children’s honesty, whereas the remainder referred to specific inconsistencies in the children’s testimony. Children resisted credibility challenges 54% of the time, significantly more often than they provided compliant responses (26.8%). The tendency to resist was significantly lower for questions focused on specific rather than general inconsistencies, and peripheral rather than central content. Overall, children resisted credibility challenges more often when the aim and content of the question could be understood easily. As this was a field study, the accuracy of children’s responses could not be assessed. The findings suggest that credibility-challenging questions that place unrealistic demands on children’s memory capacities (e.g., questions focused on peripheral content or highly specific details) occur frequently, and that juries should be made aware of the disproportionate effects of such questioning on the consistency of children’s testimony. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Re-examining the research on parental conflict, coparenting, and custody arrangements.
    This article addresses 4 questions: First, how much weight should be given to parental conflict and the quality of the coparenting relationship in determining parenting time—specifically with respect to children’s living at least 35% time with each parent in joint physical custody? Second, to what extent are low conflict and cooperative coparenting connected to better outcomes for children? Third, to what degree are children’s outcomes linked to whether their parents take their custody disputes to court or have high legal conflict? Fourth, is joint physical custody associated with worse outcomes than sole physical custody for children whose parents have a conflicted, uncooperative coparenting relationship? Recent research does not support the idea that conflict—including high legal conflict—should rule out joint physical custody as the arrangement that best serves children’s interests. Parents with joint physical custody do not generally have significantly less conflict or more cooperative relationships than parents with sole physical custody. Conflict and poor coparenting are not linked to worse outcomes for children in joint physical custody than in sole physical custody. The quality of the parent–child relationship is a better predictor than conflict of children’s outcomes, with the exception of the most extreme forms of conflict to which some children are exposed. While continuing our efforts to improve parents’ relationships with one another, we should become more invested in helping both parents maintain and strengthen their relationships with their children. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Top-down processes in interpersonal reality monitoring assessments.
    We examined to what extent, and how, the judgment framework within which assessments of reality monitoring (RM) criteria are made affects the efficacy of these assessments in predicting veracity. In Experiment 1, trained participants assessed the presence of RM criteria in truthful and false life stories. Participants either: (a) knew the real purpose of RM and assessed the criteria in order to determine the veracity of the stories (forensic-judgmental context), (b) were misled to believe that RM is a tool for the prediction of literary attractiveness and assessed the criteria to determine the perceived attractiveness of the stories (literature-judgmental context); or (c) were told nothing about the purpose of RM (notjudgmental context). Results showed that criteria assessments were positively affected in predicting the veracity of stories in the forensic-judgmental context group. In Experiment 2, trained participants assessed the criteria for the same truthful and false life stories. Two-thirds of the participants knew the real purpose of RM as a lie-detection tool. However, they were misled to believe either that all stories were truthful (biased-for-truth) or that all stories were false (biased-for-lie). The remaining participants were told nothing about the purpose of RM (control group). Results showed that biased-for-truth participants perceived the stories as richer in perceptual, contextual, and emotional details, as compared with the control group. Taken together, the results show that judgment frame has an effect on assessment of RM criteria. Interpersonal RM as a cognitive process will be discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Redundant deliberation about negative consequences: Decision inertia in emergency responders.
    Major emergencies are high-stakes, ambiguous, dynamic, and stressful events. Emergency response commanders rely on their expertise and training to mitigate these factors and implement action. The Critical Decision Method was used to interview 31 commanders from the police (n = 12), fire and rescue (n = 15), and ambulance services (n = 4) in the United Kingdom about challenges to decision making. Transcripts were analyzed in 2 ways: (a) using thematic analyses to categorize the challenges to incident command and (b) grounded theory to develop a theoretical understanding of how challenges influenced decision processing. There were 9 core challenges to incident command, themed into 2 categories: (a) those relating to the perceived characteristics of the incident itself; and (b) those relating to uncertainties about (inter)personal dynamics of the team(s) responding. Consideration of challenges featured prominently in decision makers’ prospective modeling, especially when thinking about goal accomplishment (i.e., What if I deploy now? What if I do not?). Commanders were motivated to save life (attack/approach goal), yet also sought to prevent harm (defend/avoid goal). Challenges led commanders to redundantly deliberate about what to do; their prospective modeling was related to the anticipation of potential negative consequences that might arise both for acting (attack) and not acting (defend). Commanders identified this difficult trade-off, yet described how experience and their responsibility as a commander gave them confidence to overcome decision inertia. Future research is needed to identify whether decision making training on how to anticipate and overcome difficult cognitive trade-offs would lead to more flexible and expedient commanding. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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  • Justice is (change) blind: Applying research on visual metacognition in legal settings.
    Research has demonstrated striking failures of visual awareness. For example, participants have failed to notice gorillas passing through basketball games, money dangling from trees in front of them, and even sudden substitutions of conversation partners. Findings such as these are interesting in part because they conflict strongly with the intuition that most visual objects and events are easily detectable. Indeed, research in metacognition reveals that people overestimate their ability to detect visual stimuli in a variety of contexts. These errors in visual metacognition have legal implications, as they may cause decision makers to misweigh evidence about visual experience. We describe 4 experiments that bridge the gap between lab studies of visual metacognition and 1 relevant legal context: negligence litigation. In the first 2 experiments, we expand on the existing visual metacognition research by demonstrating that participants’ overestimation persists when they are asked what an observer should see and what an observer can be blamed for failing to see. Then, we examine the extent to which participants treat their presumptions that someone should have seen a stimulus like evidence of verified visual detection. Finally, we use vignettes of negligence cases modeled on existing change blindness and inattention blindness research to drive home the potential legal consequence of visual metacognitive errors: defendants may be found negligent for failing to detect stimuli that most people in the defendants’ position would not have seen. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
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