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40. Question Types, Responsiveness and Self-contradictions when Prosecutors and Defense Attorneys Question Alleged Victims of Child Sexual Abuse
Applied Cognitive Psychology (2014)
  • Samantha J. Andrews, University of Cambridge
  • Michael E. Lamb, University of Cambridge
  • Thomas D. Lyon, University of Southern California
We examined 120 trial transcripts of 6- to 12-year-old children testifying to sexual abuse. Age and attorney role were analyzed in relation to question types, children’s responsiveness, and self-contradiction frequency. A total of 48,716 question-response pairs were identified. Attorneys used more closed-ended than open-ended prompts. Prosecutors used more invitations (3% vs. 0%), directives and option-posing prompts than defence attorneys, who used more suggestive prompts than prosecutors. Children were more unresponsive to defence attorneys than to prosecutors. Self-contradictions were identified in 95% of the cases. Defence attorneys elicited more self-contradictions than prosecutors, but nearly all prosecutors (86%) elicited at least one self-contradiction. Suggestive questions elicited more self-contradictions than any other prompt type. There were no associations with age. These findings suggest that neither prosecutors nor defence attorneys question children in developmentally appropriate ways.
  • child abuse,
  • child testimony,
  • defence attorneys,
  • question types,
  • child neglect
Publication Date
November, 2014
Citation Information
Andrews, S. J., Lamb, M. E., & Lyon, T. D. (2015). Question types, responsiveness, and self-contradictions when prosecutors and defense attorneys question alleged victims of sexual abuse. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 29, 253-261.