Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Nicole E. Lytle

Committee Member

Jason J. Dickinson

Committee Member

Tina M. Zottoli

Committee Member

Bradley D. McAuliff


Child sexual abuse (CSA) remains a wide-spread problem and challenging to prosecute in a court of law for many reasons, among these being the manner in which children disclose abuse. A recent Supreme Court ruling decided upon the admissibility of expert testimony in cases of CSA, which raise important questions about how lay individuals think about different disclosure behaviors. As such, the current study investigated knowledge and beliefs about two common CSA disclosure behaviors—delayed disclosure and recantation—in a sample of jury eligible lay persons. The primary aims associated with this study were to characterize individuals’ knowledge and beliefs regarding the nuances of and reasonings for a delay disclosure or recantation. A sample of 320 jury-eligible lay persons were recruited through an online panel provider to complete a survey that consisted of a combination of open-ended and close-ended questions about delayed disclosure and recantation. Participants demonstrated varied knowledge and beliefs about familiarity with delay and recantation, beliefs regarding their frequency of occurrence, conceptualizations of delay (onset/duration), and rationale for why children delay or recant, as well as the credibility of these behaviors. In addition, results provide information regarding areas in which beliefs align with what is known in the scientific literature, such as in typical disclosure patterns and the influence of relationship to perpetrator on delay. Study results contribute to the extant literature on lay persons’ knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors for understanding how jurors make sense of CSA cases. Limitations of online panel providers and caveats to conclusions that can be drawn from survey research are discussed. Findings from this study highlight the need for future research to determine if and how certain knowledge and beliefs impact fact finders’ legal decision-making.

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