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J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1989 May;30(3):337-46.

Children's memory and the assessment of possible child sex abuse.

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1
Fleming Nuffield Unit, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, U.K.

Abstract

Memory is part of a knowledge base which interacts with cognition and also represents a "preservation of experience" (Piaget & Inhelder, 1973). Children's memory ability is better in relation to recognition than to free recall and is inclined to be poor in relation to specific details involving times, dates and locations (episodic memory). Younger children, therefore, usually need to be given the opportunity to relate their version of events in their own way (script memory), following which the interviewer may pose specific, simple and unambiguous questions for both aiding the child and clarifying any inconsistencies in their responses. The use of concrete forms of communication such as dolls, drawings and other play materials is a valuable aid, but the interviewer needs to guard against the biasing influence of suggestion and leading statements and questions. What children remember does not differ in essence from what adults remember. How much children remember depends on age, language and conceptual level of development, and on the form in which their memory is questioned, as well as on the style and manner of the interviewer's use of his or her authority. Where memory may be of vital importance to the management of the child's case, as in physical and sexual abuse, it is important that a proper psychometric assessment of the child's cognitive abilities and evaluation of the child's psychological maturity be carried out (Jones & McQuiston, 1988). Until fairly recently, the role of the child's memory in the interview situation has tended to be overlooked. However, with the increasing demands on professionals to address the worrying problem of child abuse, the role of memory has been thrown into more important focus, with some advance in our appreciation of it. Nevertheless, much more research remains to be done on the subject. Meanwhile, our aim should be, as some researchers have pointed out, to adopt acceptable retrieval techniques that maximize the accuracy and usefulness of children's memory whilst at the same time avoiding the effects of misleading suggestive influences.

PMID:
2663898
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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