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Posted on April 1st, 2012, by

Recently a lot of researches in law and psychology were related to child witnesses. Children in different countries are increasingly being called to testify in criminal cases. However, special features of child memory require special methods special interview methods. Several factors can affect child memory and require different quantitative and qualitative methods of interview. Three articles related to this theme were reviewed in current work.

Special features of child memory in the recent articles

The first article, “I hardly cried when I got my shot!”¯ influencing children’s reports about a visit to their pediatrician”¯, studies the types of postevent feedback. Authors divide feedback of focus-group (5-year-old children) following their Diphtheria Pertussis Tetanus (DPT) inoculation for three groups: pain-affirming, pain-denying and neutral feedback.Ā  One week later their reports were the same. And one year later their report hardly depended on the additional information that children got about this inoculation. Some children got true information and some children got misleading information, and the second group tended to false allegations more then the first one.

The second article, “Does the cognitive interview help children to resist the effects of suggestive questioning?”¯ studies the issue of interrelation of the method of interview and the level of increased the resistance of children to suggestive questions. Focus-group (8-10-year-old children) were interviewed a day later magic show. The experiment proved that children recalled significantly more correct details under the correct method of interview (authors compared cognitive interview and structured interview). Cognitive interview “was initially developed in the United States by Geiselman and Fisher, aims to increase the quantity and quality of information elicited from cooperative witnesses, victims, and suspects.”¯ It allows reporting of correct information and high level of resistance to misleading questions, thus, this is more reliable technique of child’s interview.

The third article, “The Roles of Prior Experience and the Timing of Misinformation Presentation on Young Children’s Event Memories,”¯ explores the influence of timing onto children’s memories of unique and repeated events. Focus-group (5-6- year-old children) participated in different kinds of activities 1 or 4 times. Then, few days later, children received misleading information regarding their activities. The experiment proved that “the timing of the misinformation session did not affect memories of repeated-experience children”¯ (Roberts, 2007) So, if some activity is repeating, child is able to remember it better and provide more correct details independently of misleading data. However if the activity was unique, the misleading information could change the children’s memories.Ā  The impact of misleading information depends greatly on timing: the more time after event, the more suggestible are children and their memory. “Thus, timing differentially affected memories of single and repeated events and depended on the combination of event-misinformation and misinformation-test delays rather than the overall retention interval.”¯ (Roberts, 2007)


Three reviewed articles could lead the researcher to the general conclusion. Child’s memories depend on an initial reaction for pain (pain-affirming, pain-denying and neutral feedback), the post-event misleading information as well as its timing. However the reliable method of interview could improve the result and obtain more correct details. “As children’s spontaneous person descriptions are short (but accurate), quantitatively and qualitatively more information could be obtained by developmentally appropriate interviewing techniques. (Kask, 2009)”¯ It is reasonable to use the cognitive interview as the main method of interview for children, because it allows children to freely recall information.

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