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Received: from SOUTH-STATION-ANNEX.MIT.EDU by po6.MIT.EDU (5.61/4.7) id AA20853; Mon, 8 Aug 94 11:11:43 EDT Received: from sifon.CC.McGill.CA by MIT.EDU with SMTP id AA22593; Mon, 8 Aug 94 11:11:34 EDT Received: from (hebb.Psych.McGill.CA []) by sifon.CC.McGill.CA (8.6.8/8.6.6) with SMTP id LAA10412 for ; Mon, 8 Aug 1994 11:11:26 -0400 Received: by (4.1/SMI-4.1) id AA09991; Mon, 8 Aug 94 11:20:02 EDT Date: Mon, 8 Aug 1994 11:19:09 -0400 (EDT) From: Maggie Bruck Subject: MIchaels Briefs To: harris@MIT.EDU Message-Id: Mime-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII I am sending you the Kelly Michaels stuff in three different files AMICUS BRIEF FOR THE CASE OF NJ V. MICHAELS PRESENTED BY COMMITTEE OF CONCERNED SOCIAL SCIENTISTS PREPARED BY MAGGIE BRUCK & STEPHEN J. CECI In the past decade, there has been an exponential increase in research on the accuracy of young children's memories and the degree to which young children's memories and reports can be molded by suggestions implanted by adult interviewers. Although some of these studies document the strengths of young children's memories, increasing numbers of studies highlight their weaknesses when they are interviewed under certain conditions. As will be explained, these same interview conditions, which have a high risk of contaminating young children's reports, characterize the available investigative interviews carried out with the 20 child witnesses in the Kelly Michaels case. In this brief, we present a summary of the pertinent social science research that addresses the issues of children's suggestibility. Our primary focus is on the conditions under which preschool children are most suggestible. Referring to interviews used with Wee Care children, we conclude that the procedures of interviewing these children were so faulty that they may have substantially increased the risk that the children's subsequent reports were mere reflections of the interviewers' suggestions. This brief also contains a summary of some of the conditions which have been shown to increase the reliability of young children's reports, and which act as a safeguard against the production of false reports. The Wee Care children were not interviewed under these safer conditions. Finally, we will argue that the failure to record the initial interviews with any of the child witnesses rules out the possibility of ever reaching any firm conclusion as to whether any abuse actually occurred. In other words, the primary evidence has been destroyed. A. Research on Children's Suggestibility Children's suggestibility has been a focus of research since the turn of the twentieth century. There have been many studies that examine the influence of a single misleading suggestion on children's recall of an event; generally, these studies indicate that in a variety of conditions, young children are more suggestible than adults with preschoolers being more vulnerable than any other age group (see attached article by Ceci and Bruck, 1993a for the most recent review of this literature). In the past 5 years, there has been a major paradigmatic shift in this research in an attempt to make it more forensically relevant. As more and more children are called to court to provide uncorroborated testimony, especially in cases involving child sexual abuse, social scientists have turned their attention from studying the effects of a single misleading question on children's recall of neutral, nonscripted, and often uninteresting events, to examining the accuracy of children's testimony under a range of conditions that are characteristic of those that bring children to court. One important area of study concerns the effects of different interviewing techniques on the reliability of children's reports. These studies go beyond the examination of how a single misleading question influences children's reports; rather, they examine the effects of a host of implicit and explicit suggestive techniques that can be woven into the fabric of the interview through the use of bribes, threats, repetitions of certain questions, and the induction of stereotypes and expectancies (Ceci & Bruck, 1993a). It is important to understand that this is a rapidly expanding area of inquiry. Reviews of the literature that were published only a few years ago, are now out-of-date. For example, in 1989, Cornell University hosted an international conferences which called together major researchers in the area of child testimony (J. Doris ed. 1991). At that conference some researchers made the following types of statements (m)ost research on children as eyewitnesses has relied upon situations that are very different from the personal involvement and potential trauma of sexual abuse. Researchers have used brief stories, films, videotapes or slides to simulate a witnessed event. A few have used actual staged events but these events are also qualitatively different from incidents of child abuse (Goodman & Clarke-Stewart, p. 92-93). As will become clear in our presentation, this statement no longer characterizes the relevant research. Researchers have developed paradigms to examine children's reports of salient and personally-experienced events that involve their own bodies. No longer do older maxims hold that when children are inaccurate in their reporting about such events it is because they make errors of omission (i.e, they fail to report important events) rather than errors of commission (i.e. they insert inaccurate details). Rather the newer research indicates that under certain conditions, young children also make errors of commission about personally experienced events involving their own bodies. In the section below, we summarize some of the major findings of this area of research. We also provide examples of how different suggestive interview techniques were used in the investigative interviews with the Wee Care children. 1. The Effects of Interviewer Bias on Children's Reports A review of interviews of children suspected of sexual abuse reveals that some interviewers blindly pursue a single hypothesis that sexual abuse has occurred. In such interviews, the interviewer typically fails to rule out rival hypotheses that might explain the behavior of the child and as a result often concludes that the child was sexually abused. Some investigative and therapeutic interviewers claim that such techniques are necessary because sexually abused children are so scared or embarrassed that they will never willingly or spontaneously tell any interviewer, including their own parents of the past abuses. Therefore, they claim, it is necessary to use all available strategies to get the child to reveal sexual abuse. These strategies include the use of repeated leading questions, repeated interviews, bribes or threats, and the induction of stereotypes and expectancies (Ceci & Bruck, 1993a). Such strategies may prove successful when the child has been sexually abused; that is, the interviewer will be successful in drawing out a report of sexual abuse from the child. However, as we document below when interviewers have strong preconceived impressions of what happened, these biases can also result in the generation of false confessions from children. The following three studies show that interviewers, who are given false information about certain events, often shape children's reports to be consistent with their inaccurate beliefs about what happened through the use of leading questions and other implicit suggestive techniques. Clarke-Stewart, Thompson and Lepore (1989) conducted a study in which 5- and 6-year-olds viewed a staged event that could be construed as either abusive or innocent. Some children interacted with a confederate named Chester as he cleaned some dolls and other toys in a playroom. Other children interacted with Chester as he handled the dolls roughly in a mildly abusive manner. Chester's dialogue reinforced the idea that he was either cleaning (e.g., "This doll is dirty, I had better clean it"), or playing with the doll in a rough suggestive manner (e.g., "I like to play with dolls. I like to spray them in the face with water"). The child was then questioned about this event several times, on the same day, by different interviewers who differed in their interpretations of the event. The interviewer was either 1) accusatory in tone (suggesting that the janitor had been inappropriately playing with the toys instead of working), 2) exculpatory in tone (suggesting that the janitor was just cleaning the toys and not playing), or 3) neutral and non-suggestive in tone. In the first two types of interviews, the questions changed from mildly to strongly suggestive as the interview progressed. Following the first interview, all children were asked to tell in their own words what they had witnessed (this is referred to as "free recall"). They were then asked some factual questions (e.g., "Did the janitor wipe the doll's face?"), and some interpretive questions regarding the janitor's activities (e.g., "Was the janitor doing his job or was he just being bad?"). Then, each child was interrogated by a second interviewer who either reinforced or contradicted the first interviewer's tone. Finally, children were asked by their parents to recount what the janitor had done. When questioned by a neutral interviewer, or by an interviewer whose interpretation was consistent with the activity viewed by the child, children's accounts were both factually correct, and consistent with the janitor's script. However, when the interviewer contradicted the script, children's stories quickly conformed to the suggestions or beliefs of the interviewer; by the end of the first interview, 75% of children's remarks were consistent with the examiner's point of view, and 90% answered the interpretive questions in agreement with the interviewer's point of view, as opposed to what actually happened. Children changed their stories from the first to second interviews only if the two interviewers differed in their interpretation of the events; thus, when the second interviewer contradicted the first interviewer, the majority of children then fit their stories to the suggestions of the second interviewer. If the interviewer's interpretation was consistent across two interviews, the suggestions planted in the first session were quickly taken up and mentioned by the children in the second session. Moreover, when questioned by their parents, the children's answers were consistent with the interviewers' biases. Finally, although the effects of the interviewers' interpretations were most observable in terms of the children's responses to the interpretive questions about what the janitor had done, 20% of the children also made errors on the factual questions in the direction suggested by the biased interpretation, even though no suggestions had been given regarding these particular details. On a more practical level, these results suggest that if children experience an ambiguous event (e.g., touching), depending on the interviewers' beliefs about the touching, and how these beliefs get translated into questions, children may relate that it was good touching ("my teacher was only rubbing my back"), or bad touching ("my teacher was rubbing my bum"). Pettit, Fegan and Howie (1990) examined how interviewers' beliefs about a certain event affects (a) their style of questioning children about those events and (b) the accuracy of children's subsequent reports. Two actors, posing as park rangers, visited the classes of preschool children to ask them to help a bird find a nest for her eggs. During the presentation, one of the rangers accidently knocked a cake onto the floor. When the cake fell and shattered on the floor, there was an abrupt silence and a halt to all activities. Seven children, who were members of the class, did not view this event but had been taken to other parts of the school. Two weeks later, all children were questioned about the event. Interviewers' beliefs about the event were manipulated. Some interviewers had full accurate knowledge of the event. Some were given inaccurate information (i.e. false beliefs). Other interviewers were given no information about the event. The interviewers were told to question each child until they found out what happened, and to avoid the use of leading questions. Despite the warning to avoid leading questions, 30% of all interviewers' questions could be characterized as leading, and half of these were misleading. Interviewers with inaccurate knowledge (false beliefs) asked four to five times as many misleading questions as the other interviewers. Overall, children agreed with 41% of the misleading questions, and children who were interviewed by biased interviewers gave the most inaccurate information. Thus if an interviewer's belief is contrary to what the child actually experienced, the interview is characterized by an overabundance of misleading questions which results in children providing highly inaccurate information. A similar finding was reported by Ceci, Leichtman & White (in press). Here, preschoolers were exposed to a touching-game, and then were interviewed one month later. The interviewer was given a one-page report containing information about what might have occurred. Some of the information was accurate and some was inaccurate. The interviewer was asked to conduct an interview to determine how much information the child could, in fact, still recall. The only instruction given to the interviewer was that she should begin by asking the child for a free narrative of what had transpired, avoiding all forms of suggestions and leading questions. Following this, the interviewer was instructed to use whatever strategies she felt necessary to elicit the most factually accurate report from the child. When the interviewer was accurately informed, she got children to recall correctly most of the events that had transpired. Importantly, there were no false reports when the interviewer was correctly informed. However, when she was misinformed, 34% of the 3- to 4-year-olds and 18% of the 5- to-6-year-olds corroborated one or more false events that the interviewer erroneously believed had transpired. Thus, in the misinformed condition, the children made errors of commission. After two such interviews, children continued to give detailed, but false, accounts of bodily touching (e.g., some falsely claimed that their knees were licked and that marbles were inserted into their ears). Finally, the children in the misinformed condition seemingly became more credible as the interview unfolded. Many initially stated details inconsistently, or with reluctance or even denial, but as the interviewer persisted in asking about nonevents, some children abandoned their denials and hesitancy. These studies provide important evidence that interviewers' beliefs about an event can influence their style of questioning, which in turn can affect the accuracy of children's testimony The data highlight the dangers of having only one hypothesis about the event in question--especially when this hypothesis is incorrect. Interviewers' biases, their blind pursuit of a single hypothesis, and their failure to test alternate, equally believable, explanations of the children's behavior are rife in the interviews conducted with the Wee Care Children. These biases are revealed in the interviewers' persistently maintaining one line of inquiry (through the use of repeated leading questions, bribes and threats) even when children consistently replied that the questioned events never occurred. Interviewers' biases are also revealed in their failure to follow-up on some of the children's inconsistent or bizarre statements, for doing so might disconfirm their primary hypotheses. A long section of interaction shown on pages (PUT IN CORRECT NUMBERS circa 38-41) illustrates some of these claims as do the following shorter pieces of dialogue in which the interviewer (Q) engages one child (A) in the following interactions during one of the initial investigatory interviews. Q: Do you think that Kelly was not good when she was hurting you all? A: Wasn't hurting me. I like her Q: I can't hear you, you got to look at me when you talk to me. Now when Kelly was bothering kids in the music room A: I got socks off -------------------------- Q: Did she make anybody else take their clothes off in the music room? A: No Q: Yes A: No -------------------------- Q: Did you ever see Kelly have blood in her vagina? A: This is blood Q: Kelly had blood in her vagina A: Yeah Q: She did? Did you ever get any of that blood on your penis? A: No. Green blood Q: Did you ever see any of your friends get blood on their penis from her vagina? A: Not green blood but red blood -------------------------- Q: Tell me something, tell me about the piss box. The piss box that's in the music room? A: No, up there. All the way up there Q: Is the piss box the bench at the piano? When you open up the bench: is that the piss box? A: Yeah Q: It is? A: Yeah Q: And what happened, she would open it up? A: And, popped it up A: She popped it up and then what would you do? A: Jump in it? Q: Jump in it? A: Yeah Q: And would you have to pee in it? AL Yeah (about 10 questions later, the topic comes up again) Q: So the pee-pee box is the bench at the piano and you flip it open? A: No Q: What is the pee-pee box? A: This is the pee-pee box Q: That's not a pee-pee box. That's a crayon box -------------------------- Q.: Did Kelly ever make you kiss her on the butt? A: No Q: Did Kelly ever say--I'll tell you want. When did Kelly say these words? Piss, shit, sugar? A: Piss, shit sugar? Q: Yeah, when did she say that, what did you have to do in order for her to say that? A: I didn't say that. Q: I know, she said it, but what did you have to do? -------------------------- (In this section, the child is asked to use anatomically detailed dolls and different utensils) Q: Okay, I really need your help on this. Did you have to do anything to her with this stuff? A: Okay. Where's the big knife at. Show me where's the big knife at. Q: Pretend this is the big knife because we don't have a big knife A: This is a big one Q: Okay, what did you have to do with that? What did you have to... A: No..take the peanut-put the peanut butter Q: You put what's that, what did you put there? A: I put jelly right here Q: Jelly A: And I put jelly on her mouth and on the eyes Q: You put jelly on her eyes and her vagina and her mouth A: On her back, on her socks Q: And did you have to put anything else down there? A: Right there, right here and right here and here Q: You put peanut butter all over? And where else did you put the peanut butter? A: And jelly Q: And jelly? A: And we squeezed orange on her. Q: And you had to squeeze an orange on her? A: Put orange juice on her Q: And did anybody--how did everybody take it off? How did she make you take it off? A: No. Lick her all up, eat her all up and lick her all up Q: You had to lick her all up? A: And eat her all up Q: Yeah? What did it taste like? A: Yucky Q: So she made you eat the peanut butter and jelly and the orange juice off of the vagina too? A: Yeah Q: Was that scary or funny? A: Funny, funny and scary. -------------------------- This interview is one of many that shows how interviewers did not seriously consider any evidence that was contrary to their primary beliefs. Thus when children's responses contained discrepant, inconsistent, incomprehensible or no information, the investigators only considered these responses to be consistent with the fact that abuse had taken place or else they chose to ignore these statements. We are struck by the inconsistencies and the bizarre statements made by the children in response to the interviewers' questions. Most adults interacting with children in these situations would try to figure out just what the child was thinking about or why the child might be so confused to make such statements. Yet this simply did not happen. The children were never asked common sense questions such as: "Did this happen to you or are you just pretending that it happened to you?" or "Did you see this happen or did someone tell you that it happened?" Children were never challenged about their statements, "Are you sure that this happened or are you telling me a joke?" Competent investigative interviewers would have used such techniques in order to understand how the alleged acts could actually be carried out in a short period of time in a very public place. Our contention that the Wee Care interviewers held preconceived biases that these children were abused is not an inference, but is based on their statements justifying the use of their interviewing procedures. These interviewers believed that their major objective was to get the children to admit to sexual abuse. Dr Susan Esquilin, a child therapist, presided over two heavily attended parent meetings when allegations were first made. She conducted five group therapy sessions with the Wee Care children and eventually assessed or treated 13 of the 20 child witnesses. She stated that her goal was to induce the children to discuss sexual abuse. In the first group therapy session, she told the children that they were assembled together because of some of the things that had happened at the Wee Care and with Kelly. Based on courtroom testimony, it seems that 4 children made allegations after their contacts with Esquilin. (5C, 11C, 14C, and 20C) Lou Fonolleras, an investigator from the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS), conducted 82 interviews with Wee Care children and 19 interviews with Wee Care parents, between May 22 and July 8 1985. At trial, Fonolleras described his interviewing techniques as follows, "The interview process is in essence the beginning of the healing process." To rationalize his use of persistent questions with the children, he stated, "because it is my professional and ethical responsibility to alleviate whatever anxiety has arisen as a result of what happened to them." Fonolleras justified his telling children about other children's allegations by saying, " children who needed some reassurance...(that) they were not alone". Finally one other detail is of importance in understanding the bias and pursuit of a single hypothesis in Fonolleras' interviews. He himself had been abused as a child. And in at least one recorded interview he uses this to lead the child's testimony. At least 10 children made initial allegations after their interviews with Fonolleras. Eileen Treacy, an expert for the prosecution, also interviewed these children several times between November 1985 and February 1987. At trial she testified on her interviewing techniques, "So you open the interview in an effort to disempower Kelly of these super powers that she allegedly has or that the kids thought she had and also to let the children know that telling about these things was okay and they would be safe." Finally, we do not limit our consideration of interviews to those held between children with legal and therapeutic professionals, but also extend these to conversations between parents and their children. Although we do not have any recordings or descriptions of the structures of these conversations, parents were soon instilled with the belief that abuse had taken place. Two weeks after 16C made the initial allegation, Peg Foster a sex abuse consultant told the parents at a school meeting that three children had been abused and urged them to discover whether their own children had been abused. Having documented that interviewer expectancies lead preschoolers to respond in ways that are compatible with these expectancies, and that the Wee Care interviewers possessed strongly held expectancies that the children were abused, we now review the components of suggestive biased interviews that have the largest impact on producing inaccurate reports from young children. 2. The Effects of Repeated Questions A number of studies have shown that asking children the same question repeatedly within an interview and across interviews, especially a yes/no question (e.g., Poole & White, 1991), often results in the child changing her original answer. Preschoolers are particularly vulnerable to these effects. Children often do this because they seem to reason, "The first answer I gave must be wrong, that is why they are asking me the question again. Therefore I should change my answer". At other times, children may change their answer to please the adult who is questioning them; they reason that the "adult must not have liked the first answer I gave so I will give another answer". At other times, children's answers may change because the interviewer's previous suggestions become incorporated into their memories. For example, Cassel and Bjorklund (1993) questioned children and adults about a videotaped event they had viewed one week earlier. The subjects were asked leading questions and if they did not fall sway to the lead, then they were asked a more suggestive follow-up question. Kindergarten children were most affected by this manipulation. As expected, compared to adults and older children, they were most inaccurate in answering the first misleading questions; but also when the second more suggestive question was asked, they were more likely than older subjects to change their answers and to incorporate the desired answer into their second responses. Interviewers of the Wee Care children frequently repeated questions. They repeated questions when a child denied abuse or when then the the child's answer was inconsistent with what the interviewers believed. Although there are instances when children tenaciously rejected the interviewer's persistent suggestive questions, upon repetition of a question children often changed their answers to ones that were consistent with sexual abuse. Q: When Kelly kissed you, did she ever put her tongue in your mouth? A: No Q: Did she ever make you put her tongue in her mouth? A: No Q: Did you ever have to kiss her vagina? A: No Q: Which of the kids had to kiss her vagina? A: What's this? Q: No that's my toy, my radio box. Which kids had to kiss her vagina? A: Me 3. The Effects of Repeating Misinformation across Interviews In most earlier studies of children's suggestibility, misinformation was planted only one time. However, our review of available transcripts reveals that not only is misinformation repeated within interviews, but it is commonly repeated across many different interviews. A number of studies show that if children are repeatedly given misleading information in a series of interviews, this can have serious effects on the accuracy of their later reports (for a review, see Poole & White, in press). Not only can the misinformation become directly incorporated into the children's subsequent reports (they use the interviewers' words in their inaccurate statements), but it can also lead to fabrications or inaccuracies which do not directly mirror the content of the misleading information or questions. For example, Bruck, Ceci, Francouer & Barr, (submitted) found that children will give highly inaccurate reports about a previous visit to a pediatrician's office if they are given multiple suggestions in repeated interviews. The children in this study visited their pediatrician when they were five years old. During that visit, a male pediatrician gave each child a physical examination, an oral polio vaccine and an inoculation. During that same visit, a female research assistant, talked to the child about a poster on the wall, read the child a story and gave the child some treats. Approximately one year later, the children were re-interviewed four times over a period of a month. During the first three interviews, some children were falsely reminded that the pediatrician showed them the poster, gave them treats, and read them a story, and that the research assistant gave them the inoculation and the oral vaccine. Other children were given no information about the actors of these events. During the final interview, when asked to recall what happened during the original medical visit, children who were not given any misleading information were highly accurate in their final reports. They correctly recalled which events were performed by the pediatrician and by the research assistant. In contrast, the misled children were very inaccurate; not only did they incorporate the misleading suggestions into their reports, with more than half the children falling sway to these suggestions (e.g., claiming that the female assistant inoculated them rather the pediatrician), but 45% of these children also included non- suggested but inaccurate events in their reports by falsely reporting that the research assistant had checked their ears and nose. None of the control children made such inaccurate reports. Thus, when suggestions are implanted and incorporated, young children use these in highly productive ways to reconstruct and distort reality (see Chester Study above by Clarke-Stewart et al., and Sam Stone Study below by Leichtman & Ceci for similar results). Unfortunately, we do not have any of the initial interviews with the Wee Care children and thus we cannot ascertain the degree to which the allegations that emerge in much later taped investigatory interviews reflect earlier implanted suggestions. It is also possible that some of the allegations that occurred in these investigatory interviews reflect suggestions implanted from earlier conversations with parents who were urged by professionals and by other parents to look for signs of abuse in their children. It is also important to note that the suggestive interviews did not end in July 1985 with the completion of Fonelleras' investigation. Children were interviewed before they appeared before the grand jury. Children were questioned by therapists, and they were questioned by members of the prosecutors' office leading up to trial. These children were also questioned by the prosecution and the defense attorneys at the trial. (FOOTNOTE. We have no precise figures on the number of times that each child was interviewed between May 1, 1985 and the present time. Appendix 1 represents an attempt to reconstruct the interviewing schedule for each child. These figures are clearly underestimates). A consideration of the research findings suggests that if the children had not been abused, then this magnitude of repeated suggestive interviews could have the effect of increasing and cementing false reports. 4. Emotional Tone of the Interview Children are quick to pick up on the emotional tones in an interview and to act accordingly. There is much information that can be conveyed in the emotional tone including, implicit or explicit threats, bribes, and rewards. For example, in some studies when an accusatory tone is set by the examiner, (e.g. "we know something bad happened", or "it isn't good to let people kiss you in the bathtub", or "you'll feel better once you tell", or "don't be afraid to tell"), then children in these studies are likely to fabricate reports of past events even in cases when they have no memory of any event occurring. In some cases, these fabrications are sexual in nature (see review in Ceci & Bruck, 1993b). For example, four years after children played with an unfamiliar research assistant for five minutes while seated across a table from him, Goodman and her colleagues asked these same children to recall the original experience, and then asked them a series of questions, including abuse-related suggestive questions about the event (Goodman, Wilson, Hazan & Reed, 1989; also described in Goodman & Clarke-Stewart, 1991). At this time, the researchers created what they described as "an atmosphere of accusation", by telling the children that they were to be questioned about an important event and by saying such things as, "Are you afraid to tell? You'll feel better once you've told". Although few children had any memory for the original event from four years earlier, their performance on the suggestive abuse questions was mixed. Five out of the fifteen children incorrectly agreed with the interviewer's suggestive question that they had been hugged or kissed by the confederate, two of the fifteen agreed that they had their picture taken in the bathroom, and one child agreed that she or he had been given a bath. The important conclusion of this study is that children may begin to give incorrect information to misleading questions about events for which they have no memory, when the interviewer creates an aura (emotional tone) of accusation. There are many other studies in the social science literature to show that reinforcing children for certain behaviors regardless of the quality of the behaviors also increases the frequency of these types of behaviors. Telling children "you are a really good boy" is one of example of this. In some situation, when used appropriately, these types of supportive statements make children feel at ease and make children more responsive and accurate than when they are provided with no feedback or support (e.g., . Goodman, Rudy, Bottoms, & Aman, 1990). However, if used inappropriately, these types of statements can also produce inaccurate statements. Thus, it has also been found that when interviewers are overly supportive of children, then children tend to produce many inaccurate as well as many accurate details (e.g., Geiselman, Saywitz & Bornstein, 1990). Certainly, there appears to be some trade-off in the effect of positive and neutral support on the accuracy of children's reports. Although the quality and quantity of positive support and reinforcement provided in many of the research studies exemplify good interviewing techniques, ones that most interviewers would use, the types of "encouraging" statements made by some of Wee Care children's investigators would never be considered as acceptable examples of how children should be encouraged in an interview: McGrath: Do you want to sit on my lap? Come here. I am so proud of you. I love big girls like you that tell me what happened -- that aren't afraid because I am here to protect you. Did you ever see what's this right here?...You got such pretty eyes. You are going to grow to be a beautiful young lady. I'm jealous, I'm too old for you. Detective McGrath rationalized this behavior by saying "this way she may feel more comfortable and more at ease." However, these statements may have far greater consequences; they may change the balance of accuracy in children's reports. Threats and bribes also influence the emotional tones of interviews. However, these elements have never been systematically investigated, because it would be ethically impermissible to include such statements in research interviews with young children. But from everything we know about the principles of child development and about principles of punishment and reward, these statements should dramatically decrease the accuracy of children's statements. In the Wee Care interviews, there are numerous examples of bribes. Some children were given police badges in exchange for their incriminating statements. Sometimes the bribe took the form of promises to terminate the interviews ("Well, we can get out of here real quick if you just tell me what you told me last time we met" or, " Tell me what Kelly did to your hiney and then you can go."). Sometimes uncooperative children were explicitly threatened ("Now listen you have to behave" or, "You are acting like a baby"). The Wee Care interviewers often created an atmosphere of conspiracy and tried to enlist the children's cooperation. For example: Your mommy tells me that you guys are interested in busting this case wide open with us, is that right? --------- That's why I need your help, especially you older kids...because you can talk better than the younger kids...and you will be helping to keep her in jail longer so that she doesn't hurt anybody. Not to mention that you'll also feel a lot better once you start. --------- These statements on the part of the Wee Care interviewers reflect their biases and their attempts to get children to admit abuse. And as we have argued, such statements may have deleterious effects on the subsequent accuracy of young children's reports. 5. The Effects of Peer Pressure or Interaction on Children's Reports The effects of letting children know that their friends have "already told" is a much less investigated area in the field of children's testimonial research. In addition, suggestions or misleading information may also be planted by peers. However, there are at least three relevant studies. First, Binet (1900) found that children will change their answers to be consistent with those of their peer group even when it is clear that the answer is inaccurate. In the Pettit et al study described above, there were seven children who were absent from their classrooms when the target event (the cake falling off the piano) occurred. Yet when questioned two weeks later, six of these children indicated that they were present. One presumes that these six children gave false reports so that they would feel they were part of the same group as their friends who did participate. Importantly, this study also shows how the peer group's actual experiences in an event can contaminate non-participants reports or fabricated memories of the event. Finally, Pynoos and Nader (1989) studied people's recollections of a sniper attack. On February 24, 1984, from a second story window across the street, a sniper shot repeated rounds of ammunition at children on an elementary school playground. Scores of children were pinned under gunfire, many were injured, and one child and passerby were killed. Roughly l0% of the student body, 113 children, were interviewed 6 to l6 weeks later. Each child was asked to freely recall the experience and then to respond to specific questions. Some of those children who were interviewed were not at the school during the shooting, including those already on the way home and those on vacation. Yet, even the non witnesses had memories: "One girl initially said that she was at the school gate nearest the sniper when the shooting began. In truth she was not only out of the line of fire, she was half a block away. A boy who had been away on vacation said that he had been on his way to the school, had seen someone lying on the ground, had heard the shots, and then turned back. In actuality, a police barricade prevented anyone from approaching the block around the school." (p. 238). One assumes that children heard about the event from their peers who were present during the sniper attack and they incorporated these reports into their own memories. The investigators constantly told the Wee Care children that their friends had already told. "All the other friends I talked to told me everything that happened. 29C told me. 32C told me...And now it's your turn to tell. You don't want to be left out, do you?" ----------------------------------- "Boy, I'd hate having to tell your friends that you didn't want to help them" Parents also told their children that they had been named as victims by other children. Child 1C finally disclosed to his mother after she had told him that others had mentioned him as a participant. The above evidence suggests that this strategy may co-opt children into making false reports. 6. The Effects of being Interviewed by Adults with High Status Young children are sensitive to the status and power of their interviewers and as a result are especially likely to comply with the implicit and explicit agenda of such interviewers. If their account is questioned for example, children may defer to the challenges of the more senior interviewer. To some extent, it is this power differential and its recognition by the child that is one of the most important explanations for children's increased suggestibility. Children are more likely to believe adults than other children, they are more willing to go along with the wishes of adults, and to incorporate adults' beliefs into their reports. This fact has long been recognized by researchers since the turn of the century and has been demonstrated in many studies (Ceci & Bruck, 1993a for review). The Wee Care children were interviewed by law enforcement agents or by social workers who made reference to their connection to law enforcement agents. The children were explicitly made aware of the status of their interviewers by such comments as: "I'm a policeman, if you were a bad girl, I would punish you wouldn't I? Police can punish bad people" ------------------------- "I'm going to introduce you to one of the men who arrested Kelly and put her in jail." This is the first part


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