Using a structured interview protocol to improve the quality of investigative interviews

Kathleen J. Sternberg, Michael E. Lamb, Phillip W. Esplin, Yael Orbach, Irit Hershkowitz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


As other chapters of this book have highlighted, there remains consider-able controversy concerning the extent to which children and adults are susceptible to suggestion in laboratory and forensic contexts. This controversy notwithstanding, most researchers agree that the manner in which children are questioned can profoundly affect the quality and extent of children’s reports (Brainerd & Ornstein, 1991; Foley & Johnson, 1985;Lamb, Sternberg, Esplin, Hershkowitz, & Orbach, 1999; Poole & Lamb,1998; Saywitz, 1987). In this chapter, we discuss interview methods that enhance children’s ability to report experienced events accurately by relying primarily on questions that access their memory using free-recall prompts. Although children, like adults, can be affected by suggestive interviewing techniques, we demonstrate how the use of structured inter-view protocols can maximize the quality of information obtained from children and avoid inadvertent suggestion and thus its possible effects. We cannot change the characteristics and abilities of the children being interviewed, but we can dramatically affect the quality of children’s reports by altering interviewers’ styles and strategies. In this chapter, we describe the pragmatic and conceptual factors that led us to develop structured interview protocols and then illustrate how such protocols enhance the quality of information obtained from children in investigative interviews. We begin with a brief overview of expert recommendations regarding investigative interview practices, and then discuss attempts to improve the quality of investigative interviews by providing intensive training. Finally, we discuss a series of studies designed to assess the utility of increasingly detailed and complete interview guidelines.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMemory and suggestibility in the forensic interview
Editors Mitchell L. Eisen, Jodi A. Quas, Gail S. Goodman
PublisherLawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers
Number of pages28
ISBN (Print)9780805830804
StatePublished - 2002


  • Interviewing in law enforcement


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