Assessing the value of structured protocols for forensic interviews of alleged child abuse victims

Yael Orbach, Irit Hershkowitz, Michael E. Lamb, Kathleen J. Sternberg, Phillip W. Esplin, Dvora Horowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of a structured interview protocol (NICHD Investigative Interview Protocol) operationalizing universally recommended guidelines for forensic interviews. Method: The NICHD Investigative Protocol was designed to maximize the amount of information obtained using recall memory probes, which are likely to elicit more accurate information than recognition memory probes. Forensic investigators were trained to use the NICHD protocol while conducting feedback-monitored simulation interviews. The utility of the protocol was then evaluated by comparing 55 protocol interviews with 50 prior interviews by the same investigators, matched with respect to characertistics likely to affect the richness of the children's accounts. The comparison was based on an analysis of the investigators' utterance types, distribution, and timing, as well as quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the information produced. Results: As predicted, protocol interviews contained more open-ended prompts overall as well as before the first option-posing utterance than non-protocol interviews did. More details were obtained using open-ended invitations and fewer were obtained using focused questions in protocol interviews than in non-protocol interviews, although the total number of details elicited did not differ significantly. In both conditions, older children provided more details than younger children did. Conclusion: The findings confirmed that implementation of professionally recommended practices affected the behavior of interviewers in both the pre-substantive and substantive phases of their interviews and enhanced the quality (i.e., likely accuracy) of information elicited from alleged victims. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)733-752
Number of pages20
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2000


  • Child witnesses
  • Forensic interviews
  • Interview processes
  • Open-ended questions
  • Sexual abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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