Currently, there is no consensus on which interviewing techniques provide the most reliable evidence from alleged victims of child physical and sexual abuse. One style of interviewing, which reflects decades of research on children's eyewitness testimony, encourages children to describe events in their own words and avoids specific questions and props. In contrast, another style seeks to maximize disclosures through the use of body diagrams and specific questions about touching. Unfortunately, the debate over which method best distinguishes abused from nonabused children, and the field of children's eyewitness testimony itself, are at an impasse. This research project uses a new approach that allows researchers to safely and ethically test between these two different approaches in a laboratory setting. Results will determine whether eyewitness findings vary for children with different disclosure histories and whether the positioning of body diagrams in interviews influences rates of true and false reports.
Information about optimal interviewing practices has the potential to influence state and national-level interviewing policies utilized by law enforcement officials.