Monday, August 6, 2007

Accused fathers - but not strangers - face gender bias from men and women, study suggests

People are more likely to judge a father guilty than a mother in child sex abuse cases, research reported in this story from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest suggests. However, the same gender bias wasn't found to apply when the suspect was a stranger to the alleged victim.

In the study by Monica McCoy of Converse College and Jennifer Gray of the University of Wyoming, 256 adults read a 6-page fictional account of a court case involving the alleged serious sexual assault of a ten-year-old girl. All participants read an identical account but for one exception, the BPS report says – the suspect was described as either the alleged victim's father, mother, a female stranger or a male stranger.

Both male and female participants were significantly more likely to find a father guilty than a mother (47 per cent of fathers vs. 24 per cent of mothers were judged guilty), but this gender bias didn't extend to suspects who were unrelated to the victim. Overall, the female participants were no more likely to return a guilty verdict than the male participants, but they did tend to rate the victim as more believable and the defendant as less believable.

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