Date of Award


Access Restriction

Campus Access only Theses

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Counseling Psychology

School or College

Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Ricardo A. Machon

Second Advisor

Lisa E. Harris

Third Advisor

Rebecca A. Nathanson


As children are becoming more involved in the judicial process, attention must be given to the environment in which they testify and the possible reduction of system induced anxiety. The existing literature supports that children demonstrate higher levels of anxiety in a courtroom environment. Studies have also shown that in assessing anxiety in children, physiological measures and self-report measures are inconsistent. Further research needs to be done with multiple measures of anxiety. This study attempts to demonstrate that 1) children show greater anxiety in a courtroom setting compared to children in a non-courtroom setting, 2) that females will perceive the court experience to be more stressful and 3) children who show a discrepancy by reporting less anxiety than their body is physiologically experiencing will also demonstrate higher levels of social desirability. Thirty-two children, aged 8-10 years, from middle class elementary schools participated in this study. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of two conditions; interview in a courtroom setting or interview in a non-courtroom setting. The children participated in a staged event at their school, and two weeks later were interviewed about the event in either a courtroom or non-courtroom setting. Among the measures administered prior to and/or immediately following the interview were: Spielberger's State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children, The Children's Social

Desirability Questionnaire, and the "What Do You Think?"/Court Experiences State Anxiety Questionnaire. In addition, heart rates were recorded on each child during the interview. Contrary to previous research, the results of this study did not support the first hypothesis that children will show greater levels of anxiety in a courtroom setting as opposed to a non-courtroom setting. Significant results were found when testing the second hypothesis. Females were found to perceive the court experience as more stressful than males. In testing the third hypothesis, significant differences between children's social desirability scores and discrepancy between a low score on a self-report measure of anxiety and a high score on a physiological measurement of anxiety were absent as well. Although no statistically significant findings resulted, a trend was shown in social desirability scores. Children who reported less anxiety than they were actually experiencing had higher social desirability scores than children who reported higher or equal anxiety than they were physiologically experiencing. If the sample size was increased in future research, it is possible that findings would reach statistical significance.