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Child Abuse Negl. 2001 Mar;25(3):323-33.

The relationship between within-interview contradictions and eliciting interviewer utterances.

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Section on Social and Emotional Development, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.



To determine whether interview practices associated with inaccurate reporting in laboratory analog contexts were also associated with inaccurate information in actual forensic contexts.


The forensic interview of a 5-year-old girl, an alleged victim of sexual abuse, was analyzed to explore interview practices associated with the retrieval of contradictory information. Content analyses of the child's responses focused on: (1) new informative details about the reported incidents; (2) contradictory details; (3) "central" and "peripheral" details; and (4) the types of utterances used to elicit each detail.


The results illustrate how risky option-posing and suggestive utterances can be, as most (90%) contradicting details were elicited using option-posing and suggestive utterances and almost all (98%) of the contradicted and contradicting details were central, containing crucial information concerning the investigated allegation. No contradictory details were elicited in response to open-ended invitations.


The findings demonstrate that poor interviewing practices can be associated with high levels of internal contradiction and should be avoided by forensic interviewers. To avoid contaminating children's reports and increase the likely accuracy of the information retrieved, moreover, interviewers should elicit as much information as possible using open-ended utterances, which tap free-recall memory.

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