Researchers suggest children are unlikely to deliberately fabricate sex abuse allegations for three main reasons. First, it is not until around 4 years old that most children understand how to lie and that it is morally wrong, although generally children will not be called as witnesses until they are older (Morton, 1988; Perner, 1997).
Second, researchers argue that the fear of embarrassment discourages children from fabricating sexual abuse. Goodman et al. (1987) found that children as young as 7 refuse to admit to having had an actual genital examination by a doctor, apparently due to embarrassment. Even pre-schoolers reacted with embarrassment or amusement to leading questions about genital touching (Saywitz et al., 1991). Goodman et al. also found that children's accounts of genital examinations varied depending on their emotional states. Embarrassed children gave less information than self-confident, relaxed children (Goodman and Schaff, 1997).
Finally, as discussed in relation to coaching, a lie about sexual abuse is extremely difficult for a child to sustain plausibly because of the lack of supporting detail and appropriate emotional response (Vrij; 2000).
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