‘Undesirable’ and ‘desirable’ shifts in children's responses to repeated questions: age differences in the effect of providing a rationale for repetition



This study examined factors influencing children's tendency to shift responses when questions are repeated within an interview. Forty nine 4–5-year-olds and 40 7–8-year-olds were questioned about a video they had seen, with questions repeated by the same or a different interviewer. Half the children were given a rationale for question repetition, and half were not. Overall, the older children shifted less than the younger children, and, unlike the younger children, more to misleading than unbiased questions. The rationale did not affect overall shifting, but reduced the probability of ‘undesirable’ shifts (towards inaccuracy) in the younger children, and increased ‘desirable’ shifts (towards accuracy) at both ages. In the younger children, the rationale reduced total number of shifts, but only with the same interviewer, while in the older children the reverse applied. The results suggest developmental progression in the relative contributions of memorial and social/motivational factors to shifting. Implications for investigative interviewing with children are discussed. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.