Facilitating completeness in children?s maltreatment disclosures Child maltreatment is one of the most serious threats to children?s well-being. However, substantial percentages of children either fail to disclose abuse or provide unconvincing disclosures. In order to justify legal intervention, decision-makers expect children to disclose abuse without excessive prompting, but also to provide sufficient details about time, number, and physical interactions to convince adults that abuse occurred. Interviewers are unsure how to elicit such details; children appear unlikely to produce them spontaneously, but extensive questioning risks error and miscommunication. Given the critical importance of maltreated children?s disclosure for the protection of children, it is imperative to identify the most sensitive interviewing approaches. The proposed program of research will involve a series of novel laboratory and field studies designed to identify interviewing methods that help maltreated children provide complete reports. The project has two aims: 1) To maximize children?s capacity and willingness to disclose adult transgressions; and 2) To identify optimal question types for eliciting details about time, number, and physical interactions.
The aims will be achieved through five projects. Project 1 will identify and assess field methods for eliciting maltreatment disclosures and details about time, number, and physical interactions. It will involve detailed analysis of trial testimonies and forensic interviews with children. Project 2 will test the efficacy of novel interviewing methods in eliciting transgression disclosures, and Project 3 will identify optimal question types for eliciting details about time, number, and physical interactions. Projects 2 and 3 will involve laboratory experimental studies with children who are questioned about suspected transgressions. Valenced questions (questions about ?something bad? or ?the worst thing?), paired yes/no questions (yes/no questions followed by a requests for elaboration), and open- ended questions about time, number, and physical interactions will be assessed for their effect on the completeness of children?s disclosures. Project 4 will experimentally assess adults? perceptions of children?s disclosures and denials of transgressions. It will involve laboratory experimental studies with adults asked for their evaluation of children questioned utilizing the techniques tested in Projects 2 and 3. Project 5 will test the efficacy of novel interviewing methods in field experiments with children disclosing sexual and physical abuse. In addition to the techniques described above, it will test the efficacy of conversation questions (questions about the child?s conversations with the suspect), the subject of our currently funded research. Our research program is unique: it combines field observational research, laboratory experimental research, and field experimental research in an attempt to identify the most successful child interviewing approaches. The research provides an unprecedented opportunity to advance our understanding of child development and provide critical insight into best practice for professionals who interview children. It promises to improve interviewing, and in turn to enable child professionals to better protect children and their families.
Before concluding that child abuse has occurred, decision-makers expect children to disclose abuse without excessive prompting, and to provide details about time, number, and physical interactions. However, interviewers are unsure how to elicit such details without suggesting information. This project will develop innovative interviewing methods for eliciting true and complete reports of maltreatment without increasing false allegations, enabling professionals to better protect children and their families.
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|Quas, Jodi A; Stolzenberg, Stacia N; Lyon, Thomas D (2018) The effects of promising to tell the truth, the putative confession, and recall and recognition questions on maltreated and non-maltreated children's disclosure of a minor transgression. J Exp Child Psychol 166:266-279|
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|Stolzenberg, Stacia N; McWilliams, Kelly; Lyon, Thomas D (2017) The Effects of the Hypothetical Putative Confession and Negatively Valenced Yes/No Questions on Maltreated and Nonmaltreated Children's Disclosure of a Minor Transgression. Child Maltreat 22:167-173|