Interviewing youthful suspects in alleged sex crimes: A descriptive analysis

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To introduce and evaluate a structured interview protocol designed for investigative interviews of youthful alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse. Method: Seventy-two alleged perpetrators ranging from 9 to 14 years of age (M=12 years) were interviewed by 1 of 13 experienced youth investigators, employed by the Israeli Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, about incidents that had been reported by alleged victims. All interviews were conducted as part of the investigators' regular work and followed the structured interview guide appended to this article. Results: Interviewers questioned older and younger children similarly, but addressed fewer invitations, directive questions, and option-posing prompts to suspects who denied the allegations than to those who partially or fully admitted them. The total number of details provided by the suspects did not vary depending on their age or whether or not they fully or partially admitted the allegations. In both cases, more information was elicited using invitations rather than suggestive or option-posing prompts. Conclusion: Contrary to expectations, suspects who at least partially admitted their involvement provided considerable amounts of information and were very responsive to free recall prompts, although interviewers used more risky (potentially error-inducing) prompts when interviewing suspects rather than alleged victims.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-438
Number of pages16
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • Forensic interviews
  • Juvenile sexual offenders
  • Sexual abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Interviewing youthful suspects in alleged sex crimes: A descriptive analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this