Don't Know Responding in Young Maltreated Children: The Effects of Wh- Questions Type and Enhanced Interview Instructions

78 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2021

See all articles by Kelly McWilliams

Kelly McWilliams

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

Shanna Williams

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Stacia Stolzenberg

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

Angela D. Evans

Institute of Child Study (Brock University)

Thomas D. Lyon

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Date Written: February 10, 2021

Abstract

Two studies examined 4-7-year-old maltreated children’s “I don’t know” (IDK) responses to wh- questions after receiving various interview instructions. We predicted (H1) children would be less inclined to give IDK responses and more inclined to guess to color/number questions compared to other wh- questions, (H2) IDK instructions would increase children’s IDK responding compared to no instructions, with an increase in accuracy, but (H3) instructions would be less effective in reducing guessing for color/number questions than other wh- questions. In Study 1 we predicted that (H4) verbalizing a commitment to answer IDK would be particularly effective. In Study 2 we predicted that (H5) IDK instructions would reduce children’s accurate corrective responses, but that (H6) the negative effect of IDK instructions on corrective responses would be alleviated by a “correct the interviewer” instruction. Method. Across two studies, 301 4-7-year-old ( M = 5.60, SD = 1.09) maltreated children viewed videos and answered wh- questions about true and false details. Both studies included a within-subjects manipulation of wh- types (color/number & wh- detail) and a between-subjects manipulation of instructions (Study 1: IDK practice, IDK practice/verbalize, Control ; Study 2: IDK, Correct Me, IDK+Correct Me, Control ). Results. In both studies (1) color/number questions elicited more guessing than wh- detail questions, (2) IDK instructions decreased inaccurate responses, but they also decreased accurate responses, including accurate corrective responses, and (3) IDK instructions had a larger effect on wh- detail questions, reducing accurate corrective responses. In Study 1, verbalization failed to enhance the effect of instructions. In Study 2, the negative effect of IDK instructions on accurate corrective responses was not alleviated by instructions to correct the interviewer. Among young maltreated children, color/number questions elicit higher rates of guessing than other wh- questions. IDK instructions reduced inaccurate responses, but also reduced accurate responses.

Suggested Citation

McWilliams, Kelly and Williams, Shanna and Stolzenberg, Stacia and Evans, Angela D. and Lyon, Thomas D., Don't Know Responding in Young Maltreated Children: The Effects of Wh- Questions Type and Enhanced Interview Instructions (February 10, 2021). Forthcoming, Law & Human Behavior, USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS21-4, USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 21-4, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3783482

Kelly McWilliams (Contact Author)

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

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

Shanna Williams

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Stacia Stolzenberg

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

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

Angela D. Evans

Institute of Child Study (Brock University) ( email )

500 Glenridge Avenue
St. Catherines, Ontario L2S 3A1
Canada

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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