95. 4- to 15-year-old children’s misinterpretation of invitations asking “about the time” as requests for temporal information in forensic interviews.Child Abuse & Neglect (2022)
Background: Forensic interviewers are taught to ask children invitations using the word “time” to refer to a specific episode (e.g., “Tell me about the last time he touched you.”). However, children may interpret the word “time” as requesting conventional temporal information rather than narrative information.
Objective: We examined the rates at which children misinterpreted invitations containing the word “time,” comparing invitations asking “about” an episode to invitations asking what “happened” during an episode.
Participants: This study examined 827 forensic interviews of children aged 4 to 15 (Mage = 8.1 years) in cases of suspected sexual abuse.
Methods: We identified 1,405 invitations using the word “time,” and coded them for whether they asked “about” or what “happened.” Children’s responses were coded for whether they gave exclusively conventional temporal information, expressed temporal ignorance or uncertainty, requested clarification, or gave a don’t know response.
Results: Children responded to About invitations with higher rates of conventional temporal information (11%) than Happened invitations (6%, p < .001). Children were also more inclined to express uncertainty about temporal information when asked About invitations (p = .04). In a third of the cases where children exhibited misunderstanding, interviewers failed to clarify their intentions.
Conclusions: Forensic interviewers can reduce children’s unresponsiveness to invitations by using Happened invitations that overcome the ambiguity associated with “time.”
- child neglect,
- child abuse,
- child testimony,
- child forensic interviews,
- child sexual abuse,
- forensic interviewing,
- referential ambiguity,
- temporal informaiton
Publication DateSummer May 17, 2022
Citation InformationFriend, O.W., Henderson, H.M., & Lyon, T.D. (2022). 4- to 15-year-old children’s misinterpretation of invitations asking “about the time” as requests for temporal information in forensic interviews. Child Abuse and Neglect, 129, 105675.