The role of facilitative prompts in interviews of alleged sex abuse victims


School of Social Work, University of Haifa, Mt. Carmel, Haifa, Israel.


Purpose. The aim of the present study was to explore the nature and effectiveness of neutral and minimal facilitative prompts in forensic interviews with children, and the extent to which their effectiveness varies depending on their location relative to other prompts or on the stage of the interview.

Method. Fifty forensic interviews with alleged victims of child sexual abuse, which closely followed the NICHD investigative protocol, were analysed. Each of the interviewer's utterances was classified into one of five categories (invitation, facilitator, directive, option-posing or suggestive) and the number of words and details provided in each of the child's responses were tabulated.

Results. Facilitators proved to play an important role in forensic interviews, with children providing an average of five new substantive details following each facilitator. However, the effectiveness of facilitators varied depending upon their context. Facilitators in the first part of the substantive phase and facilitators following responses to open-ended invitations were most effective. Facilitators seem to function much like the previous eliciting utterance with respect to both the amount of information they elicit and the contents of reply.

Conclusions. The findings suggest that facilitators are not necessarily open-ended in nature and are likely to function as option-posing or suggestive questions when they follow responses to such questions.