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Young children's responses to cross-examination style questioning: the effects of delay and subsequent questioning

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In a single experiment with 5- and 6-year-old children, we examined whether the changes that children make in response to cross-examination style questioning vary as a function of delay and/or persist in subsequent interviews. Children visited the local police station; 1–3 days later they were interviewed in a direct examination format. Either 1–3 days or 8 months later, children were interviewed in a cross-examination format designed to persuade them to change their original responses. One week following the cross-examination interview, the direct examination questions were repeated. Relative to direct examination scores, the accuracy of children's reports decreased significantly during cross-examination, irrespective of delay. When children were interviewed again 1 week after cross-examination, however, their responses (and their accuracy levels) were very similar to those observed during the direct examination interview. That is, during cross-examination, children made changes to their earlier testimony even when their memory for the event remained intact.
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Keywords: children's testimony; compliance; cross-examination; delay; repeated interviewing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Publication date: March 16, 2015

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