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Is a friendly interview always a friendly one?

Conference contribution
Authors Annika Melinder
Mikaela Magnusson
Livia L Gilstrap
Published in 19th European Conference on Developmental Psychology in Athens, Greece (29/8 - 1/9 -19)
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords barnförhör
Subject categories Applied Psychology


Background and Aims: Researchers have over the past decades recognized a need to develop more suitable forensic interview protocols to meet younger children’s need for improved and adapted communication, at times with mixed success. This study examines to what extent a child friendly protocol that includes communication aids (e.g., emotional cards, pictures, and drawings) conducted by highly educated police investigators, helps children to report more detailed information from a criminal allegation. In addition, we investigated the dynamics between interviewees and interviewers. We predicted that children’s spontaneous recollection would elicit more open-ended and focused follow-up questions from interviewers, and increase the likelihood of posing more open questions. We expected wh-questions to produce more central details regarding the abuse, and support the interviewers to resist suggestive and leading questioning. Method: Transcripts from 33 children (18 girls, M = 9.42, SD = 3.85), who underwent a forensic evaluation regarding abuse, were coded and analyzed for interviewer type of questions and children’s responses. For the analyses of the dynamics between child and interviewer, we employed sequential analyses to predict behaviour from child to interviewer, and from interviewer to child. Results: Data confirm an enriched communication after open-ended questions compared to suggestive and closed questions in terms of mean transitional probability. Specifically, the children reported more detailed central information regarding the abuse after cued recall and wh-questions (ps < .001), and interviewers followed up with more facilitators when children reported details (ps < .001). When the child was reluctant (e.g., said no) or a brief yes, interviewers produced more suggestive questions but fewer off topic comments about the interview situation (ps < .01). Conclusions: Younger children need more communicative aids than what traditional interview protocols provide. The present study shows that children’s report do not necessarily suffer from the use of non-verbal material. If communicative aids are used together with suggestive questioning however, then the interview is not a friendly one any longer.

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