Interviewing Children

Posted: 5 Nov 2014

See all articles by Thomas D. Lyon

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Date Written: November 2014

Abstract

This article reviews best practice for interviewing child witnesses. In most officially recognized abuse cases, the child previously disclosed abuse, making it possible to elicit disclosures without asking closed-ended questions. Interviewers nevertheless overuse closed-ended questions, which lead to short unelaborated responses, privilege the limited perspective of the interviewer, maximize the potential for linguistic difficulties, increase children's tendency to guess, and risk response biases. Interviewers can avoid closed-ended questions through narrative practice, in which interviewers ask children to narrate a recent innocuous event before introducing the abuse topic; cued invitations, in which interviewers repeat details reported by children and ask for elaboration; open-ended wh- questions; and interview instructions, including asking children to promise to tell the truth. A remaining challenge is how to elicit disclosures from reluctant children. Better understanding of the dynamics of abuse disclosure and optimal interviewing strategies can assist the legal system in assessing the veracity of children's reports.

Suggested Citation

Lyon, Thomas D., Interviewing Children (November 2014). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 10, pp. 73-89, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2519034 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-lawsocsci-110413-030913

Thomas D. Lyon (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

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