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The Development of Temporal Localization Skills in Maltreated Children

  • Author(s): Denzel, Stephanie
  • Advisor(s): Quas, Jodi
  • et al.

The purpose of the present study was to examine the development of temporal localization abilities about salient past events in maltreated children, the population of children most likely to be asked temporal questions in a forensic or legal setting. Of particular interest was how well the children could respond to questions in which the terms near, before and after were used in related to the present and past, verifiable and salient events. Participants included 167 maltreated children (85 female) ages 6 to 10 years waiting for court appearances in the Los Angeles County Dependency Court. Overall, children seem to have an understanding of the temporal terms near, before and after. However, their understanding is not necessarily what would be expected from past studies. Specifically, children's temporal understanding appears to depend on both the timing and type of event in question itself as well as the cyclical nature of landmark events to which the event is being compared. Children struggled with answering questions about one of two past events and older children displayed a prospective bias in their answers. Results suggest that temporal localization questions may not be useful in forensic or legal settings where precision is required.

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