Interviewer practice in investigative interviews for suspected child sexual abuse

Westcott, Helen L. and Kynan, Sally (2006). Interviewer practice in investigative interviews for suspected child sexual abuse. Psychology, Crime & Law, 12(4) pp. 367–382.



Objective: The aim of the research was to analyse interviewer practice in investigative interviews, concentrating on features other than the type of questions asked. Method: Transcripts of 70 videotaped Memorandum interviews from England and Wales were coded using a specifically developed scheme. Children were aged from under 7 to 12 years. Aspects of interviewer practice that were recorded included implementation of the different phases of the interview, interviewer distortions, and other problematic interviewer behaviours, e.g. excessive familiarity, inappropriate disbelief, etc. Results: A number of problems were noted in the transcripts. Rapport, closure and free narrative phases varied in the degree to which they were present, and in their quality even when included. Discussions of truth and lies in the rapport phase were at a basic level that did not include intention to deceive. Over half the sample included interviewer distortions, and other instances of problematic behaviours were also noted. Conclusions: The results of the study support and extend earlier research, and suggest a number of areas requiring attention. The importance of interviewer training is highlighted, and further discussion is required as to why such training does not appear to be implemented in practice.

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