This Part I of a two-part guide on how attorneys should question children addresses techniques for eliciting reliable and accurate information from children.
Best practice, evidence-based guidelines suggest that appropriate questioning can elicit accurate and reliable information from children. Attorneys should use questions that “enhance the quality of the information children provide. Improving the likelihood of successful prosecution and intervention when children are maltreated, and protect against the harm of falsely accusing adults.” (Brown & Lamb. 2015, p. 253). Suggestive prompts and questions imply that a certain answer should be given in response, or falsely present a presupposition as accepted fact. They are used often in court settings, but often elicit a disproportionately high number of contradictions or errors into a child’s accounting of his or her experience. Suggestive questions can result in the child changing details in his/her correct accounting of an event by either incorporating suggested information into the child’s experienced events or by the child acquiescing to perceived interviewer coercion. Prompts can be suggestive if they provide information that the child has not provided. 10 references
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