U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Role of Facilitative Prompts in Interviews of Alleged Sex and Abuse Victims

NCJ Number
Legal and Criminological Psychology Volume: 7 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2002 Pages: 63-71
Irit Hershkowitz
Date Published
February 2002
9 pages
This study explored the effectiveness of neutral and minimal facilitative prompts in interviews with children.
Techniques have been developed by both researchers and forensic interviewers to encourage children to provide narrative responses when they are questioned. This is especially important because the child’s statement in alleged sexual abuse cases is often the most important piece of evidence available to investigators. The purpose of this study was to explore the nature and effectiveness of neutral and minimal facilitative prompts in interviews with children. Also studied was the extent to which their effectiveness varied depending on their location relative to other prompts or on the stage of the interview. Fifty forensic interviews with alleged victims of child sexual abuse were analyzed. They all closely followed the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) investigative protocol. Each of the interviewer’s utterances was classified into one of five categories: invitation, facilitator, directive, option posing, or suggestive. The number of words and details provided in each of the child’s responses were tabulated. Results showed that facilitators proved to play an important role in forensic interviews, with children providing an average of five new substantive details following each facilitator. This finding substantiates recommendations that interviewers listen carefully to children, encouraging them in a neutral way to keep talking. Facilitators seem to communicate quite effectively the interviewers’ interest in and appreciation for the information provided by children, regardless of their age. The effectiveness of facilitators varied depending on their context. Facilitators in the first part of the substantive phase were most effective, perhaps because they occurred during the child’s first narrative, which is known to be longer and richer than any other narrative response. Facilitators were especially fruitful when they followed responses to open-ended invitations in all parts of the interview, whereas they were significantly less effective when they followed responses to directive, option posing or suggestive prompts. These findings raise questions about the designation of facilitators as open-ended prompts that can be combined with invitations into a single category of investigative utterance. 2 tables, 35 references