Emotional valence and the types of information provided by children in forensic interviews

Yael Karni-Visel, Irit Hershkowitz, Michael E. Lamb, Uri Blasbalg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Emotions can powerfully affect memory retrieval although this effect has seldom been studied in everyday contexts. Objective: This study aimed to explore the association between children's verbal emotional expressions and the type of information reported during forensic interviews. Participants and setting: The sample included 198 interviews with 4- to 14-year-old (M = 9.36, SD = 2.37) alleged victims of repeated physical abuse perpetrated by family members conducted using the Revised NICHD Protocol which emphasizes a supportive interviewing style. Methods: Interview videos were transcribed and each conversational turn was coded to reflect the amount and type of children's verbal emotional expressions, forensic information provided, interviewers' demeanor, and type of question asked. Results: The verbal expression of negative emotions was positively associated with the production of more central details (β = 0.29, SE = 0.05, p < 0.001) and peripheral details (β = 0.66, SE = 0.07, p < 0.001), while the verbal expression of positive emotions was correlated with peripheral details (β = 0.29, SE = 0.15, p = 0.047). The verbal expression of negative emotions was associated with the production of more specific details (β = 0.73, SE = 0.06, p < 0.001]) and less generic information (β = −0.39, SE = 0.18, p = 0.029) whereas positive emotions were associated only with increased specific information (β = 0.28, SE = 0.12, p = 0.025). Conclusions: These findings highlight how emotional expression, especially of negative emotions, enhances the quantity and quality of children's reports in forensic contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105639
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • Child abuse
  • Children's eyewitness testimonies
  • Emotional language
  • Support
  • The Revised NICHD Protocol
  • Humans
  • Child Abuse, Sexual/psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emotions
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Adolescent
  • Interview, Psychological/methods
  • Child
  • Physical Abuse
  • Communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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