Glendon professor talks about investigating child abuse

Marika Kemeny, Glendon public relations and communications advisor, wrote the following account of a talk given recently by Prof. Tim Moore, Psychology Department, Glendon College.

The very sensitive and controversial topic of investigating child sexual abuse was discussed by Prof. Tim Moore of the Psychology Department on Jan. 13, within the framework of the Glendon Research Series.

Moore gave examples of the many pitfalls of investigating children’s reports of their experiences. He cautioned against a number of techniques, such as leading questions, the repetition of assumptions and the “doll-centered assessment”, as possibly being dangerous to the emotional health of these children, as well as providing potentially invalid results for the investigation.

Doll-centred assessment consists of providing a doll to children under investigation, and asking them to indicate on the doll what has happened or been done to them. In many cases, the child will repeat what the lawyer or the psychologist has said and demonstrate it on the doll, although in reality those events might not have happened.

Moore stated that children intrinsically want to please and do what is expected of them. They can easily be led to answer questions in the positive or negative, in order to comply with the adult who is asking them. Further, if a statement about an event is repeated, children will often incorporate it into their memories as if it had really happened, creating false memories. If a court acts on these testimonies, horrendous injustices such as false convictions may occur.

Moore has been teaching at Glendon for 30 years. In addition, he has many publications to his credit and is often requested as an internationally-renowned expert in the field of subliminal perception and the problems of child testimony.