The dynamics of two-session interviews with suspected victims of abuse who are reluctant to make allegations

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Supportive forensic interviews conducted in accordance with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Revised Protocol (RP) help many alleged victims describe abusive experiences. When children remain reluctant to make allegations, the RP guides interviewers to (a) focus on rapport building and nonsuggestive support in a first interview, and (b) plan a second interview to allow continued rapport building before exploring for possible abuse. We explored the dynamics of such two-session RP interviews. Of 204 children who remained reluctant in an initial interview, we focused on 104 who made allegations when re-interviewed a few days later. A structural equation model revealed that interviewer support during the first session predicted children's cooperation during the rapport-building phase of the second session, which, in turn, predicted more spontaneous allegations, which were associated with the interviewers' enhanced use of open-ended questions. Together, these factors mediated the effects of support on children's free recall of forensically important information. This highlighted the importance of emphasizing rapport with reluctant children, confirming that some children may need more time to build rapport even with supportive interviewers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739-747
Number of pages9
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press.


  • child abuse
  • forensic investigation
  • rapport
  • social support
  • two-session interviews

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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