Interviewer Question Type

The methods used by interviewers to elicit children's accounts of their experiences affect both the quantity and quality of information elicited from children. Children's responses to open invitations tapping recall memory (e.g., "Tell me about that") are typically more accurate than responses to more focused questions ("Was his hat red?"), which tap recognition memory (e.g., Dent, 1982, 1986; Dent & Stephenson, 1979; Hutcheson, Baxter, Telfer, & Warden, 1995; Lamb & Fauchier, 2001; Oates & Shrimpton, 1991; Orbach & Lamb, 2001). The completeness of these initially brief accounts can be increased when interviewers use the information provided by children in their first spontaneous utterance as prompts for further elaboration (e.g., "You said the man touched you; tell me more about that touching") (Lamb et al., 2003). Unfortunately, however, forensic interviewers frequently ask very specific questions ("Did he touch you?"). Young children (those under 6) have special difficulty answering specific questions and may exhibit a response bias (e.g.,

Fivush, Peterson, & Schwarzmeuller, 2002; Peterson, Dowdin, & Tobin, 1999) or a reluctance to give "don't know" responses in the absence of knowledge (Davies, Tarrant, & Flin, 1989; Saywitz & Snyder, 1993). In addition, Waterman, Blades, and Spencer (2000, 2001, 2004) showed that children (5 to 9 years) often attempt to answer impossible (nonsensical) or unanswerable (where the information has not been provided) questions, especially if they are phrased as yes/no rather than "wh-" questions. The type of questions asked and the context in which they are introduced thus determine whether they enhance or degrade the reliability of children's reports (Poole & Lamb, 1998; Saywitz & Lyon, 2002).

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