The Effects of the Hypothetical Putative Confession and Negatively Valenced Yes/No Questions on Maltreated and Nonmaltreated Children’s Disclosure of a Minor Transgression

Stacia Roosevelt, Kelly McWilliams, Thomas D. Lyon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study examined the effects of the hypothetical putative confession (telling children “What if I said that [the suspect] told me everything that happened and he said he wants you to tell the truth?”) and negatively valenced yes/no questions varying in their explicitness (“Did the [toy] break?” vs. “Did something bad happen to the [toy]?”) on two hundred and six 4- to 9-year-old maltreated and nonmaltreated children’s reports, half of whom had experienced toy breakage and had been admonished to keep the breakage a secret. The hypothetical putative confession increased the likelihood that children disclosed breakage without increasing false reports. The yes/no questions elicited additional disclosures of breakage but also some false reports. The less explicit questions (referencing “something bad”) were as effective in eliciting true reports as the questions explicitly referencing breakage. Pairing affirmative answers to the yes/no questions with recall questions asking for elaboration allowed for better discrimination between true and false reports. The results suggest promising avenues for interviewers seeking to increase true disclosures without increasing false reports.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-173
Number of pages7
JournalChild Maltreatment
Volume22
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2017

Keywords

  • child maltreatment
  • interviewing children
  • sexual abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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