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Interviewer demeanor in forensic interviews of children

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Previous findings on the effects of interviewer support on the quality of children's accounts of experienced events are mixed, and little is known about other aspects of interviewer demeanor that might influence children's responses in an investigative interview. The present study examined the relations between child age and interviewer verbosity, support, and authoritarian manner, and how these relations predicted children's verbosity and informativeness in investigative interviews with alleged sexual abuse victims in Malaysia. Investigative interviews with 75 children aged between five and 15 years were coded for interviewer verbosity, supportive statements, authoritarian manner, child verbosity and children's informativeness. We found that the investigative interviewers in our study were more talkative but less supportive while interviewing the younger than older children. Further, interviewer verbosity was negatively associated with children's informativeness while interviewer support appeared to facilitate more informative accounts by the children. The interviewers' authoritarian manner did not vary with child age, nor did it correlate with the children's verbosity and informativeness. Our findings suggest that investigative interviewers should behave supportively at all times, but refrain from excessive talking in the interview.

Keywords: child abuse; children's testimony; forensic interviewing; interviewer demeanor; interviewer support

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology,Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, USA 2: Social and Developmental Psychology,University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Publication date: February 1, 2013


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