Although there is an abundance of research showing that the use of suggestive questions can negatively impact the accuracy of children's statements, many forensic interviewers still use these questions, even when they have undergone rigorous training or are using scripted interview protocols. Thus, there is a critical need to develop methods to inoculate young children from the negative effects of suggestive questions. Previous work by the P.I. has shown that children who produce longer and more elaborate free narratives about an event are more resistant to subsequent suggestive questions about that event. The objective of the present proposal is to extend this work by investigating the effects of a specific interview technique designed to improve children's narratives on children's subsequent resistance to suggestive questions. Specifically, the proposed project will pursue the following specific aims: 1. Replicate the relation between narrative skill and suggestibility in low-income sample with a more realistic event, increasing ecological validity;2. Test the efficacy of a narrative-scaffolding interview on reducing children's suggestibility;and 3. Test the moderating effects of language skill on narrative scaffolding. Three- and four-year-old children, recruited from child care programs serving low-income families, will observe a staged conflict between two adults in their classroom. After a delay, children will be interviewed either in a standard interview that includes only a free-recall portion or a narrative- scaffolding interview designed to support the production of a longer and more elaborate narrative. Children in both conditions will then be subsequently presented with a series of leading and misleading questions. In addition, children's language skill, measured both in terms of vocabulary and narrative skill, will be measured in separate sessions. This project is innovative in that it will go beyond correlational studies to provide evidence for a causal relation between the production of high quality narratives and children's memory. The proposed study has scientific merit by advancing our understanding of memory processes in early child development. At the same time, the proposed project will provide evidence of the efficacy of an interview procedure that can be incorporated into actual forensic interviews. Additionally, undergraduate and graduate student research assistants will be involved along with the P.I. in carrying out this project, and thus this project will provide employment and a research education experience to these students.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed project will provide evidence of the efficacy of a novel interview procedure in reducing children's suggestibility. This procedure can be incorporated into actual forensic interviews, helping to ensure the accuracy of statements obtained by children interviewed in these contexts. As such, this study has the potential to have a positive impact on promoting the health and well-being of suspected victims of child abuse.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Academic Research Enhancement Awards (AREA) (R15)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BBBP-D (52))
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Freund, Lisa S
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Texas Tech University
Other Health Professions
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Chae, Yoojin; Kulkofsky, Sarah; Debaran, Francisco et al. (2014) Low-SES children's eyewitness memory: the effects of verbal labels and vocabulary skills. Behav Sci Law 32:732-45