The development and validation of the Attitudes Toward Child Victims Scale: Who will believe a child?

Michelle Rae McCauley, Florida International University

Abstract

This research involved the development and validation of the Attitudes Toward Child Victims Scale (ATCVS). In Phase I, scale development, 290 participants responded to 41 items assessing attitudes towards children's cognitive abilities and truthfulness. Exploratory factor-analysis in Phase I resulted in a 20-item scale comprised of five factors explaining 55.9% of the variance (alpha =.87). There were two aims of Phase II. The first was to provide insight into the central dimensions jurors use when deciding child witnesses' credibility and verdict across three different types of cases (robbery, sexual assault in which the defendant was a stranger, sexual assault in which the defendant was an acquaintance) with either a 6-year-old or 13-year-old victim. The second aim was to test the ability of the newly developed ATCVS, an existing scale of attitudes toward child abuse victims developed by Bottoms (1992), and the Revised Legal Authoritarian Questionnaire (Kravitz, Cutler, & Brock, 1993) to predict verdict in the previously mentioned cases. Participants (N = 618) completed surveys and then read one of six trials involving a child victim. Participants were less likely to find the defendant guilty in the robbery case than in either of the sexual assault cases. In addition, the victim in the robbery case was perceived as less credible than the victim in either of the sexual assault cases. Women perceived the victim as being more credible than men did regardless of case.^ The ATCVS was successful in predicting verdict in the robbery and sexual assault stranger cases but not in the sexual assault acquaintance case. However, the ATCVS significantly predicted the participant's hunch about the defendant's guilt and the victim's credibility in the robbery and sexual assault acquaintance cases. The ATCVS was not successful in predicting the length of jail term participants who found the defendant guilty would recommend. Possible explanations and implications for the legal system are discussed. ^

Subject Area

Law|Social psychology|Quantitative psychology

Recommended Citation

McCauley, Michelle Rae, "The development and validation of the Attitudes Toward Child Victims Scale: Who will believe a child?" (1995). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9543493.
https://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/dissertations/AAI9543493

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