How Do Interviewers and Children Discuss Individual Occurrences of Alleged Repeated Abuse in Forensic Interviews?


  • Preparation of this article was supported in part by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Canada Graduate Scholarship-Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplement (SSHRC-MSFSS) awarded to S. P. B. as a PhD Candidate at Wilfrid Laurier University in 2010, and University of Cambridge Vice-Chancellor's Discretionary Funds and a grant from the Nuffield Foundation to M. E. L. Portions of this research were presented to the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition Conference (June 2011) and the 5th Annual Meeting of the International Investigative Interviewing Research Group (May 2012).

Correspondence to: Michael E. Lamb, Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RQ, UK.



Police interviews (n = 97) with 5- to 13-year-olds alleging multiple incidents of sexual abuse were examined to determine how interviewers elicited and children recounted specific instances of abuse. Coders assessed the labels for individual occurrences that arose in interviews, recording who generated them, how they were used and other devices to aid particularisation such as the use of episodic and generic language. Interviewers used significantly more temporal labels than did children. With age, children were more likely to generate labels themselves, and most children generated at least one label. In 66% of the cases, interviewers ignored or replaced children's labels, and when they did so, children reported proportionately fewer episodic details. Children were highly responsive to the interviewers' language style. Results indicate that appropriately trained interviewers can help children of all ages to provide the specific details often necessary to ensure successful prosecution. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.