Guide to questioning children during the free-narrative phase of an investigative interview

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Abstract

The inability of professionals to maintain the use of open-ended questions in the free-narrative phase of investigative interviews with children has been a major problem around the globe. The current paper addresses this concern by describing the key principles underlying the elicitation of free-narrative accounts and practical suggestions for formulating questions. The paper focuses on interviewing children in the early- and middle-childhood years and commences with a definition of the term “free-narrative account” and a description of how such accounts typically develop in children. A description is then provided of the four key characteristics of a good question in the free-narrative interview phase. These include (a) simple language, (b) absence of specific details or coercive techniques, (c) flexibility on the part of the interviewee to choose what details will be reported, and (d) encouragement of an elaborate response. Finally, the process of eliciting a narrative account is briefly described, including examples of questions that adhere to the four characteristics listed above.

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