Children's conversational memory regarding a minor transgression and a subsequent interview

Stacia Roosevelt, Kelly McWilliams, Thomas D. Lyon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Children's memories for their conversations are commonly explored in child abuse cases. In 2 studies, we examined conversational recall in 154 4- to 9-year-old children's reports of an interaction with a stranger, some of whom were complicit in a transgression and were admonished to keep it a secret. Immediately afterward, all children were interviewed about their interaction. One week later, children were asked recall questions about their interaction with the stranger, their conversations with the stranger, and their conversations with the interviewer. Overall, interaction recall questions elicited few details about children's conversations, whereas conversation recall questions were effective in doing so. Accuracy was high in response to both the interaction and conversation recall questions, with no differences observed. Questions explicitly inquiring about coaching elicited higher error rates, as well as apparent attempts to maintain secrecy. Source errors were rare. Conversation recall questions elicited new transgression disclosures among a substantial percentage of children. The results provide tentative support for the use of recall questions in eliciting conversational information from children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-392
Number of pages14
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Child interviewing
  • Children's memory
  • Conversational memory
  • Conversational recall

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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