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Eliciting Maltreated and Nonmaltreated Children's Transgression Disclosures: Narrative Practice Rapport Building and a Putative Confession


  • Portions of this research were presented at the Society for Research in Child Development, Denver, CO, 2008. Anna Rak, Bruce John, Jenna Tomei, Jonathan Ortega, Brooke Eggleston, Nicole Grant, Crystal Lara, MacKenzie Smith, Carole Staatz, Kellian Summer, Vanessa Starke, and Tyler Vestal assisted in data collection and coding. We are grateful for the support of the Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles County Juvenile Court, the Los Angeles County Department of Children's and Family Services, Los Angeles County Children's Law Center, and the Children's Services Division of Los Angeles County Counsel. Preparation of this article was supported in part by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant HD047290.


This study tested the effects of narrative practice rapport building (asking open-ended questions about a neutral event) and a putative confession (telling the child an adult “told me everything that happened and he wants you to tell the truth”) on 4- to 9-year-old maltreated and nonmaltreated children's reports of an interaction with a stranger who asked them to keep toy breakage a secret (n = 264). Only one third of children who received no interview manipulations disclosed breakage; in response to a putative confession, one half disclosed. Narrative practice rapport building did not affect the likelihood of disclosure. Maltreated children and nonmaltreated children responded similarly to the manipulations. Neither narrative practice rapport building nor a putative confession increased false reports.