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Title: The effect of question repetition on young children's eyewitness testimony
Author: Krähenbühl, Sarah Joanne
ISNI:       0000 0001 3602 3624
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2008
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Children who have been the victims of crime will usually be interviewed by police officers. Current interviewing guidelines warn against repeating questions, because children may interpret the repetition to mean that their first response was incorrect and therefore change their response. Previous researchers have not investigated the ways police interviewers use repeated questions. Given the guidelines we expected repeated questions to be rare. In Study 1 we analysed 95 police interviews with children aged 4-11 alleging abuse. Almost all contained repetition, and on average repeated questions accounted for a quarter of all questions asked. Repetitions led to changes in 75% of children's responses (55% were novel responses, 20% extended the original information elicited). We identified four principal question repetition styles used in police interviews: verbatim, gist, open questions repeated as closed, and closed questions repeated as open. In Studies 2, 3, 4 and 5 we interviewed children aged 4-5, 6-7 and 8-9 about a staged event they had witnessed earlier (Studies 2, 3 and 4), or about an activity in which they had participated (Study 5). In these studies we varied the type and number of repetitions. We also varied the delay between repetitions and between the event and the interview. The children's responses were assessed for accuracy and consistency. The number of accurate responses increased with age but decreased with repetition. Repetitions led to changes in approximately 25% of responses. The number of changed responses decreased with age and differed depending on whether the question was answerable or unanswerable. Most changes in responses led to a further inaccurate response (after an original inaccurate response), or resulted in accurate responses becoming inaccurate. We did not find any pattern of repetition, or type of repeated question that consistently enhanced accuracy. The implications of these results for interviewing practices are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available