How Perceptions and Beliefs About Child Abuse Affect Decision-Making as a Mock Juror



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Child abuse is a highly prevalent problem in the United States, yet only a small number of substantiated cases ever make it to trial. While past literature has examined the influence of various factors on jurors’ decision-making, there is very limited research examining variables that may moderate those links. In the present study, I investigated the moderating effect of mock jurors’ perceptions and beliefs about child abuse – as assessed by endorsement of misconceptions – on conviction decisions in cases involving child abuse (sexual and physical). Participants read a series of trial summaries describing an ambiguous child abuse case involving an eight-year old child and a known, trusted adult. Participants then completed a battery of questionnaires to assess their perceptions and beliefs about child abuse and their conviction decision. Hierarchal regression analyses explored the moderating effects of mock jurors’ misconceptions about abuse severity, victim characteristics, and perpetrator characteristics, between abuse type, victim gender, and perpetrator gender on conviction decisions. While the hypotheses were not supported, results revealed multiple significant associations and significant group differences between these variables. These findings can inform the development of trial interventions designed to minimize the impact of this prejudice on jurors’ perceptions and legal decision-making.



Psychology, Clinical