Children's Conversational Memory Regarding a Minor Transgression and a Subsequent Interview

55 Pages Posted: 15 May 2018 Last revised: 9 Aug 2018

See all articles by Stacia Stolzenberg

Stacia Stolzenberg

Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Criminology & Criminal Justice

Kelly McWilliams

City University of New York - John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Date Written: August 9, 2018

Abstract

Children’s memories for their conversations are commonly explored in child abuse cases. In two studies, we examined conversational recall in 154 4- to 9-year-old children’s reports of an interaction with a stranger, some of whom were complicit in a transgression and were admonished to keep it a secret. Immediately afterwards, all children were interviewed about their interaction. One week later, children were asked recall questions about their interaction with the stranger, their conversations with the stranger, and their conversations with the interviewer. Overall, interaction recall questions elicited few details about children’s conversations, whereas conversation recall questions were effective in doing so. Accuracy was high in response to both the interaction and conversation recall questions, with no differences observed. Questions explicitly inquiring about coaching elicited higher error rates, as well as apparent attempts to maintain secrecy. Source errors were rare. Conversation recall questions elicited new transgression disclosures among a substantial percentage of children. The results provide tentative support for the use of recall questions in eliciting conversational information from children.

Suggested Citation

Stolzenberg, Stacia and McWilliams, Kelly and Lyon, Thomas D., Children's Conversational Memory Regarding a Minor Transgression and a Subsequent Interview (August 9, 2018). 24 Psychology, Public Policy, & Law 379-392 (2018); USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS 18-12; USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 18-12. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3178365

Stacia Stolzenberg (Contact Author)

Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Criminology & Criminal Justice ( email )

411 N. Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ Arizona 85004
United States
6024960495 (Phone)

Kelly McWilliams

City University of New York - John Jay College of Criminal Justice ( email )

524 W 59th St
New York, NY 10019
United States

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-0142 (Phone)
213-740-5502 (Fax)

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