Nonverbal Emotions While Disclosing Child Abuse: The Role of Interviewer Support

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Statements by alleged victims are important when child abuse is prosecuted; triers-of-fact often attend to nonverbal emotional expressions when evaluating those statements. This study examined the associations among interviewer supportiveness, children’s nonverbal emotions, and informativeness during 100 forensic interviews with alleged victims of child abuse. Raters coded the silent videotapes for children’s nonverbal emotional expressions while other raters coded the transcripts for interviewer support, children’s verbal emotions, and informativeness. Results showed that children’s nonverbal signals were more common than and preceded the verbal signs. Interviewer support was associated with children’s expressivity. When children expressed more nonverbal emotions, they were more responsive during the pre-substantive phases and more informative about the abuse. Nonverbal emotions partially mediated the association between support and informativeness. The findings underline the value of nonverbal emotional expression during forensic interviews and demonstrate how the interviewers’ supportive demeanor can facilitate children’s emotional displays and increase informativeness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-75
Number of pages10
JournalChild Maltreatment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • child abuse
  • emotional expression
  • investigative interviews
  • nonverbal behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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