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Admitting sexual abuse against infants and preschoolers: Defendant statements in Swedish court cases

Conference contribution
Authors Mikaela Magnusson
Emelie Ernberg
Sara Landström
Published in The European Association of Psychology and Law (EAPL) conference. Menchen, Belgium: 28-31 May
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords admissions of guilt, legal decision-making, defendant testimony, confession
Subject categories Applied Psychology


Court proceedings concerning alleged child sexual abuse (CSA) against young children constitute a challenge for legal systems around the globe. Legal decision-makers are often faced with the difficult task of assessing likelihood of guilt based on oral testimonies and circumstantial evidence. Beyond the child’s testimony, a suspect confession can add vital information regarding the offence. The aim of the present study was to examine defendant statements during trial to explore factors related to admissions of guilt. Court cases (n = 117) were extracted from a larger data set containing official court documents on child sexual abuse offences against children seven years or younger. All court proceedings took place between January 2010 to December 2014 across Sweden. The archival data is currently being analyzed. Using logistic binary regression, factors from previous research on confessions during police interviews will be explored to predict admissions of guilt during trial. Furthermore, the defendants’ self-reported explanations behind the abuse allegation will be thematically analyzed to examine other aspects surrounding admissions of guilt. Findings and potential practical implications will be presented during the conference.

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