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Interrogation and false confessions among adolescents in seven European countries. What background and psychological variables best discriminate between false confessors and non-false confessors?

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The main aim of the study was to investigate the rate of claimed false confession during police questioning and identify variables that best discriminate between false confessors and non-false confessors. The participants were 24 627 high school students in seven countries in Europe. Out of 2726 who had been interrogated by the police as a suspect, 375 (13.8%) claimed to have made false confessions to the police. Logistic regression analyses showed that for both boys and girls, having attended substance abuse therapy, been attacked and bullied, and having committed a burglary, significantly discriminated between the false confessor and non-false confessor. In addition for boys, having been sexually abused by an adult outside the family was the single best predictor. The study shows the importance of history of victimization and substance misuse among adolescents in relation to giving a false confession to police during interrogation.
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Keywords: bullying; false confessions; interrogation; sexual abuse; substance misuse

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, London, United Kingdom 2: Faculty of Medicine, University of Iceland/Landspitali-University Hospital, Reykjavik, Iceland 3: Reykjavik University, Reykjavik, Iceland

Publication date: October 1, 2009

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