Children as witness Essay Example

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428865 Children as Witnesses

10th September, 2013

Overview: Child Interview Guide

  1. Preparing for the Interview

  2. Introduction

  3. Documentation

  4. Ground Rules

  5. Rapport Building, Practising Narratives and Developmental Assessment

  6. Transition to Substantive Issues

  7. Investigating the Incidents

  8. Use of Interview Tools

  9. Eliciting Information That Has Not Been Mentioned by the Child During the Interview

  10. References

Child Interview Guide

The procedure outlined below is a general guide that can be used to interview a child (11 years and below), based on a study done by Pipe, Orbach, Lamb, Abbott and Stewart (2013)

Preparing for the Interview

This stage involves doing a background check to know if the child has any special needs in the developmental and physical aspects (Pipe et al., 2013). If the child has any disability or is from a different ethnic group from an interviewers, it is imperative that a specialist who knows the child is consulted to identify possible ways through which the disability may affect the interview and ensure a translator, not a child or family member, is at the interview after consulting an ethical or cultural specialist who has identified the factors that may affect the interviewing process (Henry, Ridley, Perry & Crane, 2011).

  1. Introduction

This stage involves introducing the interviewing panel, together with their jobs and roles in that room (Brown, Pipe, Lewis, Lamb & Orbach, 2012).

  1. Documentation

The child is given a detailed explanation on the method and purpose of documentation that is to be used (Poole, Bruck & Pipe, 2011).

  1. Ground Rules

Involves telling the child that he or she should only describe what actually happened, and teaching (him or her) the difference between the truth and a lie by the aid of demonstrated scenarios (Brwon et al., 2012; Feltis, Powell, Snow & Hughes-Scholes, 2010).

  1. Rapport Building, Practising Narratives and Developmental Assessment

The interviewer gains a better understanding of the child’s skills in communication, emotional, cognitive and social development, the child’s use and interpretation of vocabulary by asking him or her open-ended questions on hobbies, a day at school, and narrating a special event from the beginning to the end (demonstrating memory abilities) (Feltis, Powell, Snow & Hughes-Scholes, 2010; Poole et al., 2013).

  1. Transition to Substantive Issues

Focus should be narrowed a little at a time rather than jumping very fast to more direct questions. It is necessary that the interviewer formulates questions and writes them down prior to the interview and begins with open-ended questions (Melinder, Alexander, Cho, Goodman, Thoresen, Lonnum & Magnussen, 2010).

  1. Investigating the Incidents

After the child has mentioned something associated to abuse fears, questioning should now make best use of techniques that will encourage narrative responses such as separating incidents (first, last, another time) in order to explore each occurrence separately and elaborate on issues (Pipe, Orbach, Lamb, Abbott & Stewart, 2013).

  1. Use of Interview Tools

The child can be allowed to free style draw, play with dolls, ‘feeling faces’, or even draw or write about the incidence, but only after they are made to understand that the tool is meant to let help them communicate (Buck, London & Wright, 2011). The interviewer can similarly use body maps, body diagrams, or an inventory of body parts and in addition to ‘feeling faces’ techniques to clarify the child’s use of terms for body parts and help the child demonstrate, talk about or even report their feelings about a scenario or a person (Broaders & Goldin-Meadow, 2010: Brown et al., 2012).

  1. Break (Optional)

The child has to be told why the break is necessary (Melinder et al., 2010). It is helpful for observers of the interview to review their notes or even study reactions and drafting more possible focused questions (Buck et al., 2011).

  1. Eliciting Information That Has Not Been Mentioned by the Child During the Interview

Questions are used to draw out any other forensically important information that the child may have not mentioned in the previous interview (Hamby, Finkelhor, Turner, & Ormrod, 2010; Darvish, Hershkowitz, Lamb & Orbach, 2008).

At this stage, the child is appreciated for his or her effort, and not the information given (Darvish et al., 2008). Opens floor for queries, addressing safety plans and exchanging contact information (business cards) for communication in case there are any questions or thoughts that would be shared in future on the same (Bull, 2010).

According to Melinder, et al. (2010), Poole, Bruck and Pipe (2011), and Pipe et al. (2013), appropriate questions and several types of media or props, such as anatomically explicit dolls, picture drawing, the doll house, telling stories and anatomic drawings are strategies that would yield good results when used in interviewing children.


Broaders, S. C., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2010). Truth Is at Hand How Gesture Adds Information During Investigative Interviews. Psychological science, 21(5), 623-628.

Brown, D., Pipe, M. E., Lewis, C., Lamb, M. E., & Orbach, Y. (2012). How Do Body Diagrams Affect the Accuracy and Consistency of Children’s Reports of Bodily Touch Across Repeated Interviews?. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 26(2), 174-181.

Buck, J. A., London, K., & Wright, D. B. (2011). Expert testimony regarding child witnesses: Does it sensitize jurors to forensic interview quality?. Law and human behavior, 35(2), 152.

Bull, R. (2010). The investigative interviewing of children and other vulnerable witnesses: Psychological research and working/professional practice. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 15(1), 5-23.

Darvish, T., Hershkowitz, I., Lamb, M. E., & Orbach, Y. (2008). The effect of the NICHD interview protocol on the elicitation of investigative leads in child sexual abuse investigations. In American Psychology Law Society Conference, Jacksonville, FL.

Feltis, B. B., Powell, M. B., Snow, P. C., & Hughes-Scholes, C. H. (2010). An examination of the association between interviewer question type and story-grammar detail in child witness interviews about abuse. Child abuse & neglect, 34(6), 407-413.

Hamby, S., Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., & Ormrod, R. (2010). The overlap of witnessing partner violence with child maltreatment and other victimizations in a nationally representative survey of youth. Child abuse & neglect, 34(10), 734-741.

Henry, L., Ridley, A., Perry, J., & Crane, L. (2011). Perceived credibility and eyewitness testimony of children with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 55(4), 385-391.

Melinder, A., Alexander, K., Cho, Y. I., Goodman, G. S., Thoresen, C., Lonnum, K., & Magnussen, S. (2010). Children’s eyewitness memory: A comparison of two interviewing strategies as realized by forensic professionals. Journal of experimental child psychology, 105(3), 156-177.

Pipe, M. E., Orbach, Y., Lamb, M. E., Abbott, C. B., & Stewart, H. (2013). Do case outcomes change when investigative interviewing practices change?. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 19(2), 179.

Poole, D. A., Bruck, M., & Pipe, M. E. (2011). Forensic Interviewing Aids: Do Props Help Children Answer Questions About Touching?. Current directions in psychological science, 20(1), 11-15.