Examining Adolescents’ and their Parents’ Conceptual and Practical Knowledge of Police Interrogation: A Family Dyad Approach

Abstract

This study examines whether parents have the prerequisite knowledge about police interrogation that would allow them to compensate for youths’ knowledge deficits, protect their interests, and buffer against their vulnerability to coercion. A racially diverse urban/suburban convenience sample of 77 11- to 13-year-olds, 46 14- to 15-year-olds, and 47 16- to 17-year-olds and their parents completed a semi-structured interview on knowledge of legal rights and police practices. Results show that parents know more than younger adolescents about components of the Miranda warning and its behavioral implications but do not necessarily know more about police strategy or the parameters of parental protection. Age and socioeconomic status were associated with youths’ risk for poor knowledge. Among parents, IQ, race, and the child’s age predicted risk classification. Parent IQ, socioeconomic status, and youths’ justice experience, race, and age predicted whether families were classified as at risk for poor knowledge. The results question legal assumptions about parents’ capacity for protecting youths’ interests without intervention.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    There are important distinctions between custodial interrogations (suspect is under arrest) and non-custodial interrogations (suspect is not under arrest). Law enforcement training (e.g., Reid & Associates, www.reid.com) also distinguishes interrogation (an accusatory confrontation to learn the truth when there is a reasonable certainty about guilt) from an interview (a non-accusatory interview to gather information). An interview can be formal (in a controlled setting) or informal (in a non-controlled setting). For brevity we generally use “interrogation” to refer to both interrogations and interviews, when necessary clarifying specific parameters of custodial interrogation (e.g., Miranda only applies for custodial interrogation).

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Correspondence to Jennifer L. Woolard.

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Woolard, J.L., Cleary, H.M.D., Harvell, S.A.S. et al. Examining Adolescents’ and their Parents’ Conceptual and Practical Knowledge of Police Interrogation: A Family Dyad Approach. J Youth Adolescence 37, 685–698 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-008-9288-5

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Keywords

  • Interrogation
  • Miranda warnings
  • Juvenile justice