Examining reluctance and emotional support in forensic interviews with child victims of substantiated physical abuse

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Socio-emotional dynamics were examined in 230 forensic interviews of 3- to -13-year-old Israeli children who disclosed chronic physical abuse that could be substantiated. Half of the children were interviewed using the Standard (SP) National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Protocol and the others using the Revised Protocol (RP) that emphasized emotional support from interviewers. When children disclosed physical abuse in the RP interviews, they did so in response to fewer prompts than children in the SP interviews. The number of turns in the transitional phase (during which the interviewer transitioned from rapport-building to exploring the possibility of abuse) was associated with increased directness and more specific utterance types. The younger children displayed reluctance more than older children. The RP interviews were characterized by more emotionally supportive statements throughout. These findings highlight various aspects of child forensic interviews that should be considered when seeking to understand children’s willingness to engage with interviewers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-238
Number of pages12
JournalApplied Developmental Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grants from the Nuffield and Jacobs Foundations, whose generous assistance is gratefully acknowledged. We would also like to thank the youth investigators who made this study possible, and the children whose statements made this study both possible and necessary.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © 2017 Taylor & Francis.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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