Expert Testimony in Child Sexual Abuse Trials: The Admissibility of Psychological Science

Margaret Bull Kovera, Eugene Borgida

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The authors describe a research programme investigating whether psychological evidence about child sexual abuse and child witnesses meets several criteria for admissibility in US courts: (a) general acceptance within the scientific community, (b) helpfulness to the jury, and (c) whether its probative value outweighs its prejudicial value. Responses from a survey of child sexual abuse experts suggest that they agree about the research findings in three areas: the demographic characteristics of sexually abused children, child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome (Summit, 1983), and children's cognitive capabilities. Survey responses from college students and community members indicate that they may be especially helped by expert testimony on children's memory. Laypersons may also benefit from a discussion of the paucity of research on offender characteristics and the wide variety of responses to sexual victimization. Data from a survey and a trial simulation suggest that expert testimony on child sexual abuse will not be prejudicial to the defendant. Implications for expert witnesses are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S105-S129
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 1997


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