Promoting Reliable Evidence

As research on factors affecting the reliability of children's eyewitness testimony has accumulated, a consensus has emerged about the safest and most effective ways of helping maltreated children to recall and report their experiences without compromising the reliability of their reports (e.g., American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children [APSAC], 1990, 1997; Fisher & Geiselman, 1992; Jones, 1992; Lamb, Sternberg, & Esplin, 1994, 1995, 1998;Home Office, 1992, 2002; Orbach et al., 2000; Poole & Lamb, 1998; Raskin & Esplin, 1991; Sattler, 1998). Forensic interviewers are advised to establish rapport before discussing the alleged incident, and to use open-ended invitations while avoiding suggestive techniques. Specific or closed questions should be used only at the end of the interview to clarify inconsistencies or elicit information crucial to the investigation that may not have been spontaneously disclosed. Unfortunately, several studies have demonstrated discrepancies between recommended best practice and the conduct of forensic interviews with children (Cederborg, Orbach, Sternberg, & Lamb, 2000; Sternberg, Lamb, Davies, & Westcott, 2001; Sternberg, Lamb, & Hershkowitz, 1996; Sternberg et al., 1997). Training programs for forensic interviewers produce initial improvements in interviewers' knowledge of developmentally appropriate interviewing but do not reliably affect behavior, with interviewers reverting to practices they know may compromise the reliability of the children's evidence (e.g., closed or focused questions, option-posing prompts, suggestive questions, anatomical dolls) (Aldridge & Cameron, 1999; Cederborg & Lamb, 2006; Craig, Scheibe, Kircher, Raskin, & Dodd, 1999; Lamb, Orbach, Sternberg, Esplin, & Hershkowitz, 2002; Stevenson, Leung, & Cheung, 1992; Warren et al., 1999). To help interviewers to conduct developmentally appropriate interviews, researchers at NICHD thus created an interview protocol that operationalized the recommendations from research (Orbach et al., 2000; Sternberg, Lamb, Orbach, et al., 2001).

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