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Best Practices in Child Forensic Interviews: Interview Instructions and Truth-Lie Discussions

NCJ Number
Hamline Journal of Public Law & Policy Volume: 28 Issue: 1 Dated: Fall 2006 Pages: 99-130
Amy Russell
Date Published
32 pages
This study reviews research that has examined whether the reliability of children's responses in a forensic interview is improved by providing the child with interview instructions and a discussion of the difference between a true statement and a lie prior to the interview.
There is minimal empirical evidence that providing interview instructions at the beginning of a forensic interview is the most effective way to enable children to resist social expectations that may undermine truthfulness. Although children may be able to resist suggestion or indicate when they do not know an answer during preinterview instructions, these skills may not be transferred to performance during the interview itself. Research on truth-lie discussions with children shows that this practice gives the child the message that there are "right" and "wrong" answers expected from the child. This conflicts with the recommended approach of accepting the child's answers for what they are, without the child feeling that the interviewer is testing his/her answers. Case law may provide guidance on whether to use a truth-lie scenario during a forensic interview. In Crawford v. Washington (2004), the U.S. Supreme Court held that "examinations...[that have] an essentially investigative and prosecutorial function" produce testimonial information. Pursuant to the confrontation clause of sixth amendment of the U.S. Constitution, these testimonial statements must be accompanied in court by a witness for the purpose of cross-examination. Subjection of a child to a truth-lie ritual may influence a child's perception of the status of the interview, which in turn may influence the court's determination of the interview's testimonial nature. This may impact whether a videotaped statement of a child may be admitted into court without the child's testimony. 164 notes