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What Is a child-appropriate interview? Interaction between child witnesses and police officers

Journal article
Authors Annika Melinder
Mikaela Magnusson
Livia Gilstrap
Published in International Journal on Child Maltreatment: Research, Policy, and Practice
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords child witnesses; investigative interview; police training; sequential analysis; interview interaction
Subject categories Applied Psychology


Over the past decades, researchers have recognized a need to develop more suitable forensic interview protocols to meet children’s right to receive improved and adapted communication. This study examines to what extent a relatively novel implementation of an investigative protocol conducted by highly trained Norwegian police investigators helps children (n = 33), 3–15 years of age, to report more detailed information from a criminal allegation than a previous protocol. Additionally, we investigated the bidirectional dynamics between interviewees and interviewers. We predicted that children’s spontaneous recollection would elicit more open-ended and focused questions from interviewers, and increase their likelihood of posing more open questions. We expected wh-questions to produce more central details regarding the abuse, which in turn allows the interviewers to resist employing suggestive and leading questioning. Results confirm an enriched communication after open-ended questions compared to suggestive and closed questions. Specifically, 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 (ps < .01). We conclude that children may need more communication aids to recount their stressful experiences in an investigative context than what traditional interview protocols provide.

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