The effects of investigative utterances on Israeli children’s reports of physical abuse

Irit Hershkowitz, Aline Elul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In investigative interviews concerned with allegations of sexual abuse, open-ended prompts by interviewers elicit more information than focused prompts. We attempted to explore these effects in investigations of physical abuse. Interviews with 50 children from 2 age groups (5-6-year-olds, 9-10-year-olds) who made subsequently substantiated allegations of physical abuse by their parents, were subjected to detailed psycholinguistic analysis. The overall productivity (number of words spoken) and informativeness (number of details elicited) of these children were remarkably low. The children were also relatively unresponsive to the investigators’ individual utterances, and many of the interviewers’ utterances were nonsubstantive (15%). The interviewers were more likely than those included in studies of sexual abuse investigations to use open-ended as opposed to focused prompts. These open-ended utterances elicited significantly more words but not more details than focused prompts. Older children also provided longer and richer utterances than younger children. The discussion examines the reasons why open-ended utterances appear less fruitful in investigations of physical as opposed to sexual abuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-33
Number of pages6
JournalApplied Developmental Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 1999

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 1999 by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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