Child abuse victims are required to participate in stressful forensic investigations but often fail to fully report details about their victimization. Especially in intrafamilial abuse cases, children's emotional states presumably involve reluctance to report abuse. The current study examined the effects of interviewers' support on children's reluctance and production of information when interviewed. The sample comprised 200 interviews of 6- to 14-year-old suspected victims of physical abuse perpetrated by a family member. Interviews followed the NICHD (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) Revised Protocol (RP), which emphasizes supportive practices. All the cases were corroborated by external evidence, suggesting that the reports of abuse made by the children were valid. Coders identified instances of interviewer support and questioning, as well as indications of reluctance and the production of forensic details by the children. Expressions of reluctance predicted that information was less likely to be provided in that utterance, whereas expressions of support predicted less reluctance and increased informativeness in the following child utterance. Mediation analyses revealed that decreased reluctance partially mediated the effects of support on increased informativeness. The data indicate that support can effectively address children's reluctance, resulting in increased informativeness and thus confirming expert recommendations that supportive interviews should be considered best practice. The findings also shed light on the underlying mechanism of support, suggesting both direct and indirect effects on children's informativeness.
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© 2018 American Psychological Association.
- Child physical abuse
- Forensic interviewing