Sexual abuse and preschoolers: Forensic details in regard of question types

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Child Abuse & Neglect, 67, 109-118

The present study looks into the association between the types of questions used by interviewers and the number of details obtained among preschoolers during an investigative interview. An innovative aspect of this study concerns the analysis of question subtypes (eg. open-ended directive and closed-ended). Analysis of variance were carried out on 55 NICHD interview protocols conducted among children aged three to five years old who disclosed an episode of sexual abuse. Findings reveal that interviewers’ style is in accordance with best practices in conducting investigative interviews with children allegedly victims of sexual abuse. As expected, there are more details in answers: 1) provided by older children compared to younger counterparts; 2) following invitations compared to all other question types. However, the analysis of question subtypes has shown that answers given to an open-ended question using cues (cued invitations or directive open-ended) obtained more details concerning the incident compared to the absence of cues (general invitations). These findings support the fact that children as young as three years old are able to produce informative responses when questioned appropriately about the CSA incident and propose reconsidering the types of question that should mainly be used with them. Findings suggest that the use of open-ended questions, using a cue previously mentioned in the testimony of the child, helps provide a detailed account during an investigative interview conducted among preschoolers allegedly victims of sexual abuse.

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Canadian CW research
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