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Judgments of reliability and credibility of interviews in child sexual abuse cases: The effects of decisionmaker, interviewing techniques, and case characteristics

Alice Josena (Sena) Garven, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This project seeks to assess the extent to which those who participate in the justice system identify and assess the influence of interview factors that are likely to produce suggestibility in children who allege that they have been sexually abused. The project seeks to answer two specific questions: (1) To what extent do variations in interviewer characteristics, interview characteristics, interviewing techniques, and child and suspect characteristics in forensic interviews of children influence professionals' (judges, interviewers, expert witnesses) and jurors judgments of those interviews? (2) Can student proxies serve as adequate substitutes for those professionals in research assessing factors that influence judgments about forensic interviews of children? This study investigated participants' sensitivity to 19 manipulations in four domains: (1) interviewer characteristics (e.g., profession), (2) interview characteristics (e.g., interview location), (3) interviewing techniques (e.g., question types), and (4) child and suspect characteristics (e.g. SES, ethnicity). ^ Overall, this research provided support for the use of undergraduates as mock jurors in jury research. However, researchers investigating decisions of legal professionals need to carefully consider the many differences this research found between the professionals and their student proxies. ^ Professionals who interview children alleged to have been sexually abused demonstrated fair sensitivity to the manipulations, as did judges, when compared to the other participants. It was hoped that we would be able to recommend that therapists who may testify as experts should be permitted to educate jurors regarding what constitutes “good” and “bad” interviewing as well as the negative effects of poor interviewing. But in our analysis, they often made the same assessments as the jurors, thus it is questionable whether they would be able to provide the jurors with any knowledge that is beyond their ken. ^

Subject Area

Law|Psychology, Social|Sociology, Criminology and Penology

Recommended Citation

Garven, Alice Josena (Sena), "Judgments of reliability and credibility of interviews in child sexual abuse cases: The effects of decisionmaker, interviewing techniques, and case characteristics" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3059948.