Psychology

Psychology and the Law Laboratory

Stevenson

Students who work in this laboratory will study various issues at the intersection of children, psychology, and the law. This research is designed to help ensure that justice is served for arguably the most vulnerable victims and offenders – children. It is also designed to make theoretical contributions to the science of psychology.

Some research projects include an examination of jurors' perceptions of child offenders. Despite a reduction in violent juvenile crime, juvenile offenders are increasingly being transferred to criminal courts, where jurors, instead of family court judges, must decide their fate. The implications of this trend are serious: Juveniles who are transferred to criminal court receive more severe sentences than comparable juveniles tried in juvenile court and are even treated more severely than adult offenders who commit similar crimes. Thus, some projects involved in this lab include an examination of various factors that influence perceptions of juvenile offenders tried in adult court.

In addition, recent legislation has extended sex offender registry laws (requiring sex offenders to register publicly on the Internet) to juvenile sex offenders (children under the age of 18). This is despite research showing that juveniles who commit sex offenses are much less likely to re-offend than adult sex offenders. Further, there is no evidence that sex offender registry laws actually reduce sexual offenses. Instead, these laws have devastating effects on juvenile sex offenders' lives (e.g., prevented from attending school, stigma, prevented from attending higher education, job restrictions, etc.). It is crucial to understand whether the public supports the extension of registry laws to juvenile offenders, as policy makers likely assume that they do. Thus, another project in this lab includes an examination of factors that influence public attitudes toward juvenile sex offender registry laws.

Visit Dr. Stevenson's website to learn more.

Publications

  • Bottoms, B., Golding, J. M., Stevenson, M. C., Wiley, T. R. A., & Yozwiak, J. A. (2007). A review of factors affecting jurors' decisions in cases involving child sexual abuse allegations. In M. Toglia, J. D. Read, D.F. Ross, & C. L. Lindsay (Eds.), Handbook of Eyewitness Psychology: Volume 1: Memory for Events, Lawrence Erlbaum: Mahwah, NJ.
  • Salerno, J. M., Stevenson, M. C., Najdowski, C. J., Wiley, T. R. A., & Bottoms, B. L. (in preparation). Perceptions of Sex Offender Registry Laws as Applied to Juveniles. Invited chapter.
  • Stevenson, M. C., Najdowski, C. J., Bottoms, B. L., & Haegerich, T. M. Perceptions of juvenile offenders. To appear in B. L. Bottoms, G. S. Goodman, & C. J. Najdowski (Eds.). Child victims, child offenders: Psychology and law. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Stevenson, M. C., & Bottoms, B. L. (in press). Race Shapes Perceptions of Juvenile Offenders in Criminal Court. Journal of Applied Social Psychology.
  • Wiley, T. R. A., Bottoms, B. L., Stevenson, M. C., & Oudekerk, B. (2005)Psychological Research Related to Children, Policy, and Law. In A. C. Fonseca (Ed.), Forensic Psychology, Almedina Press: Coimbra, Portugal.