Pub. date: 2005 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950565 | Print ISBN: 9780761928201 | Online ISBN: 9781412950565| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Testimony, Children's Competence for
Michael E. Lamb
Testimonial competence refers to the capacity of an individual to provide testimony in legal proceedings. Testimonial competence can be questioned for a number of reasons, including temporary or permanent mental disability or incapacitation. Youthful age is the most common reason to question testimonial competence, however (McGough, 1994; Poole & Lamb, 1998). Under early British common law, which was subsequently adopted in the United States, children were presumed incompetent until they attained the age of reason at 7 years. Since the 19th century, judges have been empowered to determine whether a specific child can be deemed competent to provide testimony about a particular event or issue. Testimonial competence has two key elements, one cognitive and one motivational: the capacity to provide information accurately and the motivation to testify truthfully (Myers, 1997). Until quite recently, ...