Peterson, C. (2007). Reliability of child witnesses: A decade of research. The Canadian journal of Police & Security Services, 5, 142-151.


The ability of children to recall highly stressful emotional events was investigated in a series of studies spanning more than a decade, and their findings are summarized here. The stressful events were injuries serious enough to require hospital emergency room treatment, and the children's ages ranged from 1 to 13 years at the time of injury. Although children who had been only 1 year of age (or barely 2) at the time of event occurrence showed little reliable long-term memory after they were old enough to be interviewed, older children (including young preschoolers) demonstrated remarkably good memory. Furthermore, these former 2-13 year olds recalled the target events quite well even five years later. Although the target events used as analogs in these studies are not the same as the sorts of events about which children testify in court, an understanding of children's basic memory skills for highly emotional and aversive events is important and can help inform both police investigation and confidence in child testimony.