Do Prosecutors Use Interview Instructions or Build Rapport with Child Witnesses?

Elizabeth C. Ahern, Stacia Roosevelt, Thomas D. Lyon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    25 Scopus citations


    This study examined the quality of interview instructions and rapport-building provided by prosecutors to 168 children aged 5-12 years testifying in child sexual abuse cases, preceding explicit questions about abuse allegations. Prosecutors failed to effectively administer key interview instructions, build rapport, or rely on open-ended narrative producing prompts during this early stage of questioning. Moreover, prosecutors often directed children's attention to the defendant early in the testimony. The productivity of different types of wh- questions varied, with what/how questions focusing on actions being particularly productive. The lack of instructions, poor quality rapport-building, and closed-ended questioning suggest that children may not be adequately prepared during trial to provide lengthy and reliable reports to their full ability.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)476-492
    Number of pages17
    JournalBehavioral Sciences and the Law
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Clinical Psychology
    • Psychiatry and Mental health
    • Law


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