Children’s narrative coherence in ‘Achieving Best Evidence’ forensic interviews and courtroom testimony

Faith VanMeter, Hayden Henderson, Hailey Konovalov, Yael Karni-Visel, Uri Blasbalg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In the United Kingdom, Section 27 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act permits ‘Achieving Best Evidence’ (ABE) forensic interviews to replace the evidence-in-chief in cases involving children. It is therefore imperative that forensic interviewers elicit complete, reliable, and coherent narratives from children. The goal of the current research study was to assess the coherence of forensic interviews and whether the interviewers’ emotional or cognitive support was associated with increases in the coherence of these interviews. Children’s narrative coherence was examined in 80 transcripts of ABE investigative interviews with 7- to-15-year-olds who disclosed sexual abuse. Narrative coherence was assessed using the Narrative Coherence Coding Scheme, including three dimensions of narrative coherence: chronology, consistency, and theme (Reese, E., Haden, C. A., Baker-Ward, L., Bauer, P., Fivush, R., & Ornstein, P. A. (2011). Coherence of personal narratives across the lifespan: A multidimensional model and coding method. Journal of Cognition and Development, 12(4), 424–462. Findings revealed that first elicited events were more likely to be more coherent compared to subsequently elicited events, and child engagement was positively associated with all dimensions of narrative coherence. Interviewer support was positively associated with chronology, script accounts of abuse were associated with decreased consistency and chronology (but not theme), and cognitive support was not associated with any dimension of narrative coherence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-221
Number of pages19
JournalPsychology, Crime and Law
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


This work was supported by National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [grant number HD087685]. We would also like to thank Samantha Hardy and Michael Lamb and his lab for contributions to the project.

FundersFunder number
National Institute of Child Health and Human DevelopmentHD087685


    • Child sexual abuse
    • Narrative Coherence Coding Scheme
    • child forensic interviews
    • narrative coherence


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