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Conversational apprentices: Helping children become competent informants about their own experiences


Correspondence should be addressed to Professor Michael Lamb, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Cambridge, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RQ, UK (e-mail: The second author is supported by a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, NZ (LANC0201).


Alleged victims of child abuse are often the only sources of information about the crimes, and this places them in the role of experts when conversing about their experiences. Despite developmental deficiencies in memory, cognition, communication skills, and social style, researchers have shown that children's informativeness in such conversations is profoundly shaped by the interviewing practices of their adult interlocutors. We review techniques that degrade children's performance as well as those that help children perform to the best of their abilities, and discuss how these findings have important implications for the ways in which children learn to converse and interact with adults, and for their understanding of the roles played by conversations in information exchange. When adult interviewers conduct developmentally appropriate interviews with children, they help children become competent informants about their experiences.