Children's understanding of implied coaching questions: Does acquiescence influence perceptions of believability?

Breanne E. Wylie, Angela D. Evans, Kelly McWilliams, Stacia N. Stolzenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study examined whether children understood the implied meaning of coaching questions. Researchers read 9- to 12-year-olds (N = 116) vignettes depicting an adult transgression where a child protagonist disclosed to their mother (who was supportive or unsupportive), and then a police officer who asked three implied coaching questions (e.g., “Did the mom practice with the girl what to say?”). Participants answered the questions on behalf of the child protagonist and made assessments about whether the protagonist should be believed (i.e., assessing children's understanding that acquiescence implied coaching, and in turn the protagonist should not be believed). When the parent was unsupportive, children rarely affirmed coaching. When the parent was supportive, children's acquiescence decreased with age and increased in response to subtle questions. Children failed to understand the implied meaning, instead relying on parental support to inform their believability assessments. Implied coaching questions are problematic, especially when children first disclose to a supportive adult.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101510
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023


  • Acquiescence
  • Believability
  • Coaching
  • Implied questioning
  • Parental support
  • Polysemous implicature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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