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Received: from SOUTH-STATION-ANNEX.MIT.EDU by po6.MIT.EDU (5.61/4.7) id AA20960; Mon, 8 Aug 94 11:12:44 EDT Received: from sifon.CC.McGill.CA by MIT.EDU with SMTP id AA22664; Mon, 8 Aug 94 11:12:27 EDT Received: from (hebb.Psych.McGill.CA []) by sifon.CC.McGill.CA (8.6.8/8.6.6) with SMTP id LAA10472 for ; Mon, 8 Aug 1994 11:12:24 -0400 Received: by (4.1/SMI-4.1) id AA10004; Mon, 8 Aug 94 11:20:59 EDT Date: Mon, 8 Aug 1994 11:20:32 -0400 (EDT) From: Maggie Bruck Subject: kelly3 To: harris@MIT.EDU Message-Id: Mime-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII Content-Transfer-Encoding: QUOTED-PRINTABLE Summary We have presented a number of features that, when present in=20 interviews or interactions with young children, may greatly=20 compromise the accuracy of their reports. These factors include:=20 biased beliefs of the interviewer, the use of repeated questions, the=20 repetition of misleading information, the use of rewards, bribes,=20 and threats. Children's reports are at risk for being tainted if they=20 are interviewed by an intimidating adult, such as a police office. =20 Other important factors that contribute to children's unreliable=20 reports include the use of peer pressure, the use of anatomically=20 detailed dolls, and stereotype induction. Finally, some very recent=20 evidence indicates that merely asking children to repeatedly think=20 about whether an event occurred may have a profound negative=20 effect on their subsequent memories. These features characterize=20 many of the interviews of the Wee Care children. The following=20 excerpted interview, along with our annotated comments,=20 summarizes many of the points made in this section. The=20 interviewer, an experienced social worker, is denoted I, and he is=20 interviewing one child, denoted C. Occasionally a police detective=20 (P) joins the interview. I:We have gotten a lot of other kids to help us since I last saw you. C:No. I don=D5t have to. I:Oh come on. Did we tell you she is in jail? C:Yes. My mother already told me. Comment: It is obvious that this interviewer was not neutral regarding the= defendant=D5s=20 guilt, insinuating that because she is now jail he need not be afraid of he= r, although it is not=20 clear that this child was ever afraid. Also note the use of peer pressure. I: Well, we can get out of here real quick if you just tell me what=20 you told me last time. Comment: There is no desire on the part of this interviewer to test an alte= rnative=20 hypothesis; rather he desires the child to reaffirm on tape what he said in= an earlier=20 interview through the use of a bribe. C: I forgot. I: No you didn=D5t, I know you didn=D5t. C: I did, I did. I: No, come on. C: I forgot. I: I thought we were friends last time. C: I=D5m not your friend any more. I: How come? C: Because I hate you. I: Is it because we are talking about stuff you don=D5t want to talk=20 about? What are you a monster now? Huh? ....=20 Comment: This interviewing borders on being coercive. There is little resp= ect for the=20 child=D5s wish not to discuss this matter. I:We talked to a few more of your buddies - we talked to everybody=20 now. And everyone told me about the nap room, and the bathroom=20 stuff, and the music room stuff, and the choir stuff, and the peanut=20 butter stuff, and nothing surprises me any more. Comment: Again, further evidence that no alternative hypothesis is being te= sted. The=20 interviewer essentially tells the child that his friends already told on th= e defendant, and=20 that he, the child, should do the same. C: I hate you. I: No you don=D5t...You just don=D5t like talking about this, but you=20 don=D5t hate me. C: Yes, I do hate you. I: We can finish this real fast if you just show me real fast what you=20 showed me last time. C: No. I: I will let you play my tape recorder....Come on, do you want to=20 help us out? Do you want to help us keep her in jail, huh? ...Tell=20 me what happened to (three other children). Tell me what happened=20 to them. Come on.....I need your help again, buddy. Come on. C: No. I: You told us everything once before. Do you want to undress my=20 dolly? =20 I: Let=D5s get done with this real quick so we could go to Kings to get=20 popsicles....Did (defendant) ever tell you she could get out of jail? Comment: The interviewer comes close to bribing the child for a disclosure= , by=20 implying that the aversive interview can be terminated as soon as the child= repeats=20 what he said earlier. Popsicles and playing with a tape recorder are offere= d as=20 rewards. Police: She could never get out. C: I know that. Police: Cause I got her... She is very afraid of me. She is so scared=20 of me. I: She cries when she sees him (indicating the police detective)=20 because she is so scared... What happened to (another child) with=20 the wooden spoon? If you don=D5t remember in words, maybe you=20 can show me. Comment: Note the authoritative statements of the policeman. There is no= attempt to=20 test the hypothesis that the defendant did not do what they believed she di= d. Instead, we=20 see further attempts to vilify the defendant to make it more likely the chi= ld will=20 confirm their hunch about her. C: I forgot what happened, too. I: You remember. You told your mommy about everything, about=20 the music room, and the nap room. And all the stuff. You want to=20 help her stay in jail, don=D5t you? So she doesn=D5t bother you any=20 more...Your mommy told me that you had a picture of yourself in=20 your room and there was blood on your penis. Who hurt you? C; (Child names the defendant). =20 I: So, your penis was bleeding, oh. Your penis was bleeding. Tell=20 me something else: was your hiney bleeding, too? C: No. Comment: The child never says to this investigator that his penis was blee= ding. The investigator=20 provides this misleading information to the child. I: Did (defendant) bleed, too? C: No. I: Are you sure she didn=D5t bleed? C: Yes.... I saw her penis, too. I: Show me on the (anatomical) saw that? Oh. C: See doodied on me...She peed on us. I: And did you have to pee on her at all? C: Yeah. I: You did? And who peed on her, you and who else? C: (Child names a male friend) I: Didn=D5t his penis bleed? C: Yes. I: It did? What made it bleed? What was she doing? C: She was bleeding. I: She was bleeding in her penis? Did you have to put your penis in=20 her penis? Yes or No? C: Yeah...And I peed in her penis. I: What was that like? What did it feel like? C: Like a shot. I: Did (friend) have to put his penis in her penis, too? C: Yes, at the same time. I: At the same time? How did you do that? C: We chopped our penises off. I: So, she was bleeding in her penis and you had your penis and=20 your friend=D5s inside her penis. C: At the same time. =20 Comment: This type of exchange is very common in these transcripts : When t= he=20 child says something that is not part of the interviewer=D5s hypothesis (in= this case, that=20 the children chopped off their penises), the interviewer ignores it. There= is no attempt=20 to pursue it, probably out of fear that the child may embellish this claim = with even=20 more incredible claims. Furthermore, in this last section, the child final= ly begins to=20 make allegations after much initial resistance. Previous research indicate= s that when=20 children want an interview to end, they often increase the quantity of fals= e statements=20 (Pettit et al.) At this point the child and interviewer began discussing a stream=20 of events in which the child alleged that the defendant urinated in=20 his mouth and he urinated in her mouth; he and others were made to=20 walk in her urine and slide on the classroom floor in her urine. Nowhere in this interview, or numerous others by this and other=20 mental health professionals is there any evidence that an=20 alternative hypothesis was being tested. Specifically, there is no=20 attempt by this interviewer to try to get the child to assent to an=20 incompatible hypothesis, e.g., one in which the child=D5s pediatrician=20 put his penis in the child=D5s mouth, or the sheriff made him drink his=20 urine, or that he was just teasing about the defendant bleeding. As=20 can be seen, there is no attempt to encourage the child to deny that=20 any of this happened. Although it is not possible to know how much=20 of what the child is reporting is factually accurate, there is a=20 certain suspiciousness about his disclosures -- and this is even=20 more troubling in the interviews of some of his classmates. Partly,=20 this is due to the heavy-handed use of coercive tactics ("If you tell=20 me real quick, we can go get popsicles") refusal to believe that the=20 child has forgotten or has a legitimate motive for not wanting to=20 repeat an earlier remark he allegedly made to his mother, (e.g., the=20 child may realize the former statement is false), but partly there is=20 an absence of incredulity on the part of the interviewer which may=20 reflect some interviewers' confusion between taking everything the=20 child says seriously, vs. believing everything a child says. =20 To summarize, a consideration of the nature of the interviews=20 conducted with the Wee Care children raises a possibility that=20 their statements were in response to highly suggestive and coercive=20 interviewing techniques. Our analyses of the transcripts of the=20 initial interviews with the Wee Care children also reveal that=20 despite all examples of coercive and suggestive interviewing=20 practices, the children made relatively few accusations of sexual=20 abuse, and when these did occur, for the most part, these were one=20 word responses to investigator's suggestive questions. It is rare to=20 find any elaborated account by a child even after all the suggestive=20 interviewing practices. (An instructive exercise to support this=20 conclusion involves reading only the child's portions of the=20 interviews, deleting all of the interviewers' questions and=20 comments). B. Children's Credibility Although children's reports may be highly influenced by a number=20 of suggestive influences, this does not necessarily mean that the=20 children will appear credible when they parrot interviewers'=20 erroneous suggestions. Of particular concern is whether a juror, or=20 a child development researcher, or a child therapist can=20 differentiate children whose reports are accurate from those whose=20 reports were a product of suggestive interviews. The existing=20 evidence suggests that one cannot tell the difference between these=20 two kinds of children. The evidence is based on some of the results=20 from studies already discussed in this brief. It will be recalled that in the Pettit et al study, there were=20 seven children who were absent from the classroom when a major=20 event occurred, and yet six of these children later reported that=20 they were present. On closer analysis, these researchers found that=20 the reports of three of these six absent children were=20 indistinguishable from those of their classmates who actually did=20 view the events. =20 Some researchers have opined that the presence of perceptual=20 details in reports is one of the indicators of an actual memory, as=20 opposed to a confabulated one (Schooler, Gerhard, & Loftus, 1986;=20 Raskin & Yuille, 1989). However, in the Sam Stone study for=20 example, the presence of perceptual details was no assurance that=20 the report was accurate. There was a surprising number of=20 fabricated perceptual details that children in the combined=20 stereotype plus suggestion condition provided to embellish the non- events (e.g, claiming that Sam Stone took the teddy bear into a=20 bathroom and soaked it in hot water before smearing it with a=20 crayon; claiming that there was more than one Sam Stone; claiming=20 that they saw Sam Stone go to the corner store to buy chocolate ice=20 cream).=20 It is one thing to demonstrate that children can be induced to=20 make errors and include perceptual details in their reports, but it is=20 another matter to show that such faulty reports are convincing to=20 an observer, especially a highly trained one. To examine the=20 believability of the children's reports, videotapes of their final=20 interviews were shown to approximately 1,000 researchers and=20 clinicians who work on children's testimonial issues (Leichtman &=20 Ceci, in press). These researchers and clinicians were told that all=20 the children observed Sam Stone's visit to their daycare centers. =20 They were asked to decide which of the events reported by the=20 children actually transpired and then to rate the overall credibility=20 of each child. The majority of the professionals were highly inaccurate. =20 Experts who conduct research on the credibility of children's=20 reports, who provide therapy to children suspected of having been=20 abused, and who carry out law enforcement interviews with=20 children, generally failed to detect which of the children's claims=20 were accurate and which were not, despite being confident in their=20 judgments. The highly credible yet inaccurate reports obtained=20 from the children may have resulted from a combination of repeated=20 interviews with persistent and intense suggestions that built on a=20 set of prior stereotypes. Similarly, it may become difficult to=20 separate credibility from accuracy when these children, after=20 repeated interviews, give a formal video-taped interview or testify=20 in court. Similar results were obtained when psychologists who=20 specialize in interviewing children were shown videotapes of the=20 children in the Mousetrap study (Ceci, in press). Recall that these=20 children had been simply asked to repeatedly think about whether a=20 fictitious or real event had actually happened. Again, professionals=20 could not reliably detect which of the events in the children's=20 narratives were real and which were not. One reason for their=20 difficulty may be that they cannot imagine such plausible,=20 internally coherent narratives being fabricated. In addition, the=20 children exhibited none of the tell-tale signs of duping, teasing, or=20 tricking. They seemed sincere, their facial expressions and affect=20 were appropriate, and their narratives were filled with the kind of=20 low-frequency details that make accounts seem plausible, as shown=20 in the following account: =20 My brother Colin was trying to get Blowtorch (an action figure)=20 from me, and I wouldn=D5t let him take it from me, so he pushed me=20 into the wood pile where the the mousetrap was. And then my finger=20 got caught in it. And then we went to the hospital, and my mommy,=20 daddy, and Colin drove me there, to the hospital in our van, because=20 it was far away. And the doctor put a bandage on this finger=20 (indicating) Some researchers are developing techniques that may ultimately=20 be used to detect when children's reports are accurate and when=20 their reports are inaccurate. These involve fine-grained analyses of=20 the linguistic content of the statements, the gestures, voice=20 quality, and other affective measures. However, these techniques=20 have not yet been validated on children who have undergone repeated=20 and highly suggestive interviews. Furthermore, even if such=20 techniques were available, they could only be used by highly trained=20 professionals, not by jurors, or even by specialists in child=20 development. These techniques are being developed precisely=20 because of the difficulty that professionals and non-professionals=20 all share in distinguishing between children's reliable and=20 unreliable reporting.=20 To summarize, when children have undergone suggestive=20 interviewing or are exposed to some of the components of=20 suggestive interviews, they frequently appear highly credible when=20 they are inaccurate, even to well-trained professionals. C. The Time-Course of Suggestibility Effects How long-lasting are the effects of suggestions? Perhaps it=20 could be argued that suggestive interviewing techniques change=20 children's reports but only for a short time; and sometime after=20 suggestive interviews have ceased, then children's reports revert to=20 accurate accounts. Following this line of reasoning, if children's=20 accounts of events are consistent over long periods of time even=20 after the cessation of suggestive interviews, then these reports=20 must be faithful versions of what actually happened to the children. =20 This is a difficult but important issue to address. Based on some=20 anecdotal and scientific evidence, however, we argue that=20 misleading suggestions can indeed have long lasting effects; indeed,=20 they can sometimes give rise to life-long illusory beliefs. =20 The longevity of the suggestibility effects is primarily=20 influenced by the overall strength of the suggestions. Thus the=20 same factors that increase the risk of erroneous reports also=20 increase the longevity of these reports and beliefs. To repeat these=20 include such factors as: the forcefulness of the suggestions, the=20 perceived authority of the provider of the suggestions, the use of=20 threats and bribes, reinforcement for reports of abuse, negative=20 reinforcement or ignoring denials, retractions, or implausible=20 reports, creation of an accusatory atmosphere, peer pressure, and=20 the suggestive use of anatomically detailed dolls. =20 Further aspects of the social and mental life of the child may=20 serve to solidify and strengthen their false reports and false=20 beliefs long after the interviews are over. That is, if the children=20 continue to think about the suggested events and to talk about them=20 and to hear others around them talk about them, their beliefs in the=20 reality of these events may solidify. These arguments are supported by numerous anecdotes of long- lasting but erroneous memories of childhood events (e.g., see=20 Lindsay & Read, in press). Perhaps the most famous of these=20 involves the inaccurate memory of one of the great developmental=20 psychologists Jean Piaget (Piaget, 1962).=20 " of my first memories would date, if it were true, from my=20 second year. I can still see, most clearly, the following scene, in=20 which I believed until I was about fifteen. I was sitting in my pram,=20 which my nurse was pushing in the Champs Elysees, when a man=20 tried to kidnap me. I was held in by the strap fastened round me=20 while my nurse bravely tried to stand between me and the thief. She=20 received various scratches, and I can still see vaguely those on her=20 face..... When I was about fifteen, my parents received a letter=20 from my former nurse...she wanted to confess her past faults, and=20 in particular to return the watch she had been given as a=20 reward...She had made up the whole story...I, therefore, must have=20 heard, as a child, the account of this story, which my parents=20 believed, and projected into the past in the form of a visual=20 memory." The false memories were with Piaget for at least a decade. A second piece of evidence to support the contention that some=20 children maintain their beliefs about fabricated stories that are a=20 product of suggestive interviews, long after the suggestions of=20 ceased, comes from the "mousetrap" study. Several weeks after the=20 last interview, one of the subjects who had told about his finger=20 being caught in the mousetrap was re-interviewed. When his=20 mother brought him to the lab, she told the experimenters that both=20 she and her husband thought that the study was completed, and=20 therefore two days earlier they explained to their son that the story=20 about the mousetrap was fictitious and had never happened. She said=20 that her son initially refused to accept this debriefing, claiming=20 that he remembered it happening when the family lived in their=20 former house. She and her husband continued to explain that the=20 whole story was just in his imagination, that nothing like this ever=20 happened. Despite the debriefing, the experimenters decided to re- interview the child. When asked if he ever got his finger caught in a=20 mousetrap, the child stated that he remembered this happening, and=20 he proceeded to supply a richly-detailed narrative. When the=20 interviewer challenged him, asking him if it was not the case that=20 his mother had already explained that this never happened, the child=20 protested, "But it really did happen. I remember it!" While this=20 child=D5s insistence, in the presence of his mother, is not proof that=20 he believed what he was saying about this fictitious event, it does=20 suggest that he was not duping the adults for any obvious motive,=20 given that the demand characteristics were all tilted against his=20 claiming that he remembered this.=20 This child provides a vivid example of the long-last effects of=20 suggestions. His pattern of behavior is also common in other=20 children involved in Mousetrap studies. That is, there are also other=20 children who hold on to their original beliefs even when their=20 parents debrief them and tell them that the events were only=20 imagined (Ceci, Crotteau, Smith & Loftus, in press). And, there are=20 children who continue to say that the events occurred even when=20 they are told right before the final memory test that the=20 experimenter had it wrong (e.g. Ceci, Loftus, Leichtman & Bruck, in=20 press; Lindsay, Gonzales & Eso, in press). These data suggest that the effects of suggestions may be=20 extremely long-lasting. Some children hold onto their beliefs long=20 after the suggestions have terminated.=20 Thus, if the Wee Care children's testimony was a product of=20 suggestive interviewing techniques, then their false allegations=20 might persist long after the interviews had terminated. It is also=20 important to note that these suggestive interviews continued for a=20 long time and still may be continuing to the present. That is,=20 although the investigative interviews ceased in July of 1985, all=20 but one of the 20 child witnesses were seen in therapy (IS THIS=20 CORRECT? ); some may still be in therapy. The children were=20 interviewed (and coached??) by the prosecutor's office before=20 appearing as witnesses at trial. Each child was interviewed two to=20 three times by Eileen Treacy before the trial; as we show below,=20 the interviews with Treacy were more suggestive and coercive than=20 those conducted at the beginning of the investigation.=20 ET: Let me ask you this; did she touch boys, did she touch girls,=20 did she touch dogs? 3C: She touched boys and girls ET: Did she touch them with telephones? Did she touch them with=20 spoons? What kinda spoons? 3C: Teaspoons ET: Can you make a mark where she hurt you? ....Make a mark. Just show me where Kelly hurt you. Then I can=20 show that to the judge ET: Tell me about 7C. What happened to 7C? 3C: I don't know ET: 7C told me about some of the stuff that happened to you 3C: (no response) ET: She cares about you. Some of the kids told me that things=20 happened with knives at Wee Care. Do you remember anything=20 like that? ET: I see and did the kids want Kelly to do that peanut butter stuff? 3C: I didn't even think that there was a peanut butter ET: Well what about licking the peanut butter? 3C: There wasn't anything about peanut butter. -------------------- ET:(brings out dolls). Ok now what about the private areas? What=20 happened in the private areas? 4C: I don't know ET: That's harder to talk about? 4C: Yeah ET: Does it make you embarrassed? 4C: I don't know ET: Did you ever see Kelly's private spots? 4C: I am not too sure ET: What about her boobies? 4C: I don't even really know about.. ET: There's some pictures that Sara (McArdle, the prosecutor) has 4C: What kind of pictures? ET: Kelly like doin something to 2C and I was so surprised. What=20 was she doing? 4C: Um, I forgot but I know she did it. ET: She do something with a fork to 2C? 4C: Sara would know though ET: Now when Kelly was touchin the kids with the spoons and the=20 knives, did she touch them inside of their private spots or outside? 4C: I don't remember. ET: Did Kelly ever put her elbow on your private spots? 4C: Um...maybe ----------------- ROBERT CAN YOU PUT IN THE SECTION FOR 5C THAT IS=20 SUMMARIZED ON P. 35 AT THE BOTTOM OF DAN'S=20 SUMMARIES OF EACH CASE. IT STARTS ET LEADS LEADS=20 LIKE CRAZY NOW. (after some questioning, Treacy gets 6C to say that Kelly's private=20 parts were the same as little girls) ET: Did Kelly have hair? 6C: Nah, I know cause it's grown ups... I know about that ET: So I guess that means you saw her private parts huh? Did Kelly=20 ask the kids to look at her private parts, or to kiss her private part=20 or.. 6C: I didn't really do that....I didn't even do it.. ET: But she made you 6C: She made me. She made me .. But I couldn't do it...So I didn't=20 even really do it. I didn't do it. ET: Did it smell good? 6C: shhh ET: Her private parts? 6C: I don't know ET: Did it taste good? Did it taste like chocolate? 6C: Ha, ha. No, I didn't even do it. ET: You Wee Care kids seem so scared of her 6C: I wasn't. I'm not even. ET: But while you were there, were you real scared? 6C: I don't know ET: What was so frightening about her, 6C, what was so scary=20 about her? 6C: I don't know. Why don't you ask her? ET: Did she drink the pee pee? 6C: Please that sounds just crazy. I don't remember about that. =20 Really don't.=20 In addition to the suggestions provided by mental health and=20 forensic professionals, it is possible that the parents of these=20 children continue to subtly suggest Kelly's guilt to these children. =20 Thus if Wee Care children indeed continue to report past incidents=20 of sexual abuse, it is possible that these reports reflect the long- lasting effects of much earlier suggestions, or that these reports=20 reflect the effects of past and current suggestions which have been=20 maintained over the period of years (1985-to the present). If the children were not abused, the beliefs of the legal=20 authorities, the therapists, and the parents may provide a=20 permanent architecture of suggestion to maintain the children's=20 false allegations and beliefs. In other words, living in an=20 environment where the primary belief is that"Kelly abused children"=20 provides a constant source of suggestion to these children; as a=20 result these children's reports and beliefs may be permanently=20 tainted. D. The Argument That Children Are Not=20 Suggestible Or E. How To Obtain Reliable Reports From=20 Children Some critics may argue that this brief contains a biased=20 presentation of the literature; that there are a number of studies=20 that show that children are not suggestible, or that they are no=20 more suggestible than adults. It is true that we have focused on=20 those studies that emphasize the weaknesses of children's=20 memories, because the conditions in those studies have the most=20 relevance to the interviewing conditions of the Wee Care children. =20 Other studies that emphasize the strengths of young children's=20 memories (e.g, see Goodman, Batterman-Faunce & Kenney, 1992 for=20 a review) do not contain the same types of suggestive interviewing=20 procedures as described above. What characterizes many such=20 studies is the neutral tone of the interviewer, the limited use of=20 misleading questions (for the most part, suggestions are limited to=20 a single occasion) and the absence of the induction of any motive=20 for the child to make a false report When such conditions are=20 present, it is a common (although not a universal). (FOOTNOTE For=20 example Ornstein and his colleagues (Baker-Ward et al., 1993;=20 Gordon et al., 1990) found that when children were later questioned=20 on one occasion about their memories of the visit to the=20 pediatrician, 3-year-olds were more prone than 6-year-olds to=20 make false claims in response to suggestive questions about silly=20 events involving body contact (e.g., "Did the nurse lick your knee?").=20 Similarly, after one interview, Oates and Shrimpton (1991) found=20 that preschoolers were more suggestible than older children about=20 previously experienced events that involved body touching.END OF=20 FOOTNOTE) finding that children are much more immune to=20 suggestive influences, particularly about sexual details. Hence=20 studies of children's strengths were not cited in the main part of=20 this brief because the interviewing conditions of these studies do=20 not typify those under which the Wee Care children were=20 interviewed and therefore they have limited relevance to the issues=20 in this case. However, there are two important implications of the=20 studies which focus on the strength of children's reports. The first point is that although children are mainly highly=20 accurate in studies in which they are interviewed by a neutral=20 experimenter, asked minimal leading questions, and not given any=20 motivation to produce distorted reports, there are nevertheless a=20 few children in such studies who do give bizarre or sexualized=20 answers to some leading questions. For example, in the Saywitz et=20 al. study of children's reports of their medical examinations, one=20 child, who never had a genital exam, falsely reported that the=20 pediatrician had touched her buttocks and on further questioning=20 claimed that it tickled and that the doctor used a long stick. In a=20 study of children's recalls of their visit to a laboratory (Rudy &=20 Goodman, 1991) one small child claimed that he had seen bones and=20 blood in the research trailer (see Goodman et al., 1992 , for=20 additional examples). Thus, children do occasionally make=20 spontaneous, strange, and unfounded allegations. However, as=20 Goodman and her colleagues point out, many of these allegations can=20 be understood by sensibly questioning the child and parents further. =20 Often these allegations reflect the child's source confusions or his=20 anxieties.=20 One can only imagine what would have happened were these few=20 rare spontaneous allegations followed-up in the same way as they=20 were in the Wee Care investigations. Perhaps participating=20 researchers and adults would have ended up being falsely accused of=20 many heinous acts. Also one can only imagine what would have=20 happened in the Wee Care case if the child's initial allegation that=20 "Kelly took my temperature" was investigated with the same=20 sensitivity and understanding that Goodman and her colleagues=20 showed in trying to understand their subjects' bizarre statements.=20 A second important implication of studies that emphasize the=20 strength of children's memories is that they highlight the=20 conditions under which children should be interviewed if one wishes=20 to obtain reliable reports. Again, when children are interviewed by=20 unbiased, neutral interviewers, and when leading questions are kept=20 to a minimum, and there is the absence of threats, bribes and peer- pressure, then children's reports are less at risk for taint. It is not our intention to write a section on "good interviewing"=20 practices in this brief. There have been several guidelines for the=20 interviewing of children in sexual abuse cases. (e.g, White, Santilli,=20 & Quinn, 1986; Yuille, Hunter, Joffe & Zaparniuk, 1993; also see=20 section in the Appeal document that examines New Jersey=20 interviewing procedures) At the most general level, all these=20 guidelines share the following common elements. Interviewers are=20 told to encourage the child to say as much as he or she can in his=20 own words about what happened (Can you tell me about what=20 happens at naptime?) Then more general questions to prompt recall=20 are asked (Can you tell me anything else?). Following this the child=20 might be asked more specific (not leading) questions to elaborate on=20 the previous description (e.g., Who is in the room at naptime?; Do=20 people do anything special at naptime?). And some interviewers=20 advocate the use of leading questions as a last resort, if the child=20 provides no information in the interview (Did anything scary happen=20 at naptime? Did anyone ever touch you in a bad place at naptime?). =20 The available Wee Care interviews indicate that interviews do not=20 unfold in this way. Rather, after establishing some rapport with=20 the children, the interviewers jump to specific and leading=20 questions. Even those researchers who emphasize the strengths of=20 children's memories are highly critical of the interviewing tactics=20 used with the Wee Care children: Although there may be times when one needs to ask specific=20 questions of children, several important caveats must be heeded. =20 First, in actual practice, leading questions should be avoided when=20 possible: Even if the child can maintain an accurate report, his or=20 her and the interviewer's perceived credibility are likely to suffer. =20 Second, there is a broad range of suggestion and coercion that can=20 characterize an interview, and probably almost everyone would=20 agree that some interviewers and parents go too far. Browbeating a=20 child through repeated suggestive questioning is quite different from=20 asking a few questions (Goodman, 1993, p. 15).=20 F. Missing First Interviews. The first allegation in this case was made on April 30, 1985. On=20 May 1, 1985, the Essex County Prosecutor's office initiated an=20 investigation: between May 2 and May 8, they interviewed five=20 children and four parents. There are no electronic copies of these=20 interviews. Between May 22 and July 8, 1985, Lou Fonolleras, an=20 investigator from DYFS, conducted 82 interviews with Wee Care=20 children and 19 interviews with their parents. None of the=20 interviews were taped before June 19; less than half of the=20 children's interviews and none of the parents' interviews were=20 recorded. In addition, most of the other interviews are not recorded=20 (1985-present). There are no recorded interviews with 16C, the=20 child who made the initial allegation. Many of Treacy's interviews=20 were not recorded. The failure to have audio- or video-taped records of the initial=20 interviews with these children makes it impossible to determine=20 the accuracy of the children's subsequent statements. There is=20 scanty information concerning how these children were initially=20 questioned, and also concerning how many times they were=20 questioned. Summaries of these missing interviews and electronic=20 recordings of later interviews in which children do make=20 allegations do not substitute for the missing original interviews. =20 Written summaries of unrecorded interviews are subject to a=20 number of distortions, especially if the interviewer is questioning a=20 number of children and parents daily, as was the case. It is a well=20 documented fact in the psycholinguistic literature that when asked=20 to recall conversations, most adults may recall the gist, but they=20 cannot recall the exact words used, nor the sequences of=20 interactions between speakers. This linguistic information rapidly=20 fades from memory, minutes after the interactions have occurred=20 (see Rayner & Pollatsek, 1990, for a review). In the case of child witnesses, it is crucial to document the=20 details by which their reports were obtained. For example, we must=20 know whether and how often the interviewer asked the child leading=20 questions. We most know whether the interviewer prodded the=20 child's reports with the use of anatomically detailed dolls, etc. We=20 also must know the verbatim statements and questions of the=20 interviewer as well as the verbatim responses of the children. =20 Because this verbatim information fades most rapidly from memory=20 (within a matter of minutes), it is crucial that it be electronically=20 recorded. Without this information, one cannot begin to evaluate=20 the reliability of the children's allegations. It is also the case, that= =20 the gist of previous interviews may be inaccurately summarized in=20 later reports due to certain biases or misperceptions of the=20 interviewer. If the investigator has a bias that the child was=20 sexually abused, then this can color his interpretations of what the=20 child said or did; and it is this interpretation that appears in the=20 summary rather than a factual account of what transpired. Finally, although there are some examples of taped interviews=20 (e.g., 3C) in which there seem to be few leading questions and in=20 which the child gives coherent reports of abuse, this is not the first=20 interview and it is impossible to evaluate the reliability of these=20 statements without knowing about the details of the first=20 interview. If in the first interview, this child had been subjected=20 to the same techniques that occur in the taped interviews, then the=20 reliability of this child's statements would be highly suspect. G. Generalizing from Research to the Real World A consideration of the nature of the interviews conducted with=20 the Wee Care children raises the possibility that their statements=20 were in response to highly suggestive and coercive interview=20 techniques. The social science research has documented how even=20 subtler forms of these techniques can produce highly inaccurate=20 reports in children. It is true that no study mirrors all of the=20 influences operating in any particular real-world case. Indeed,=20 many aspects of the interviewing procedures in the Wee Care case=20 will never be examined in research studies, because researchers and=20 their institutional review boards would deem the practices that=20 occurred in the interviews with the Wee Care children grossly=20 unethical, whether they be used on naive research subjects, on=20 children suspected of sexual abuse, or on children with confirmed=20 diagnoses of sexual abuse.=20 So, this brings us to the question of how much weight we should=20 attach to the social science literature, given that no study=20 perfectly mimics the constellation of variables observed in the=20 Wee Care interviews. As little as 3 or 4 years ago, experts in this=20 area would have had little empirical evidence upon which to base an=20 opinion. However, as is clear from our review of the literature, in=20 recent years a number of researchers across North America have=20 conducted studies that share many of the features of the Wee Care=20 case. =20 This recent research indicates that suggestive interviewing=20 procedures can lead young children to give false reports of real-life=20 experiences which include erroneous claims about interactions=20 involving physical contact between an adult and a child. The=20 research also shows that very few young children would fabricate=20 detailed claims of bizarre sexual abuse in response to one or two=20 mildly leading questions. And, as we have seen, many of the Wee=20 Care children initially appeared to resist repeated and forceful=20 suggestions before capitulating to the interviewers' insinuations. =20 The research also shows, however, that with more powerful and=20 persistent methods of suggestion, such as those described in this=20 brief, a substantial percentage of children can be led to make false=20 reports of events that never occurred, including events that involve=20 their own bodies and that would have been quite traumatic had they=20 occurred. Based on this literature, and based on our analyses of the=20 Wee Care interviews, it is our opinion that the constellation of=20 factors operating in the Wee Care case would constitute an=20 extraordinarily powerful suggestive atmosphere, one that is far=20 stronger than those that have given rise to false reports in the=20 research studies that we have described in this brief. Most scientists admit to being "fallibilists", that is, to=20 recognizing that knowledge is incremental, and therefore, while we=20 may never possess perfect knowldge about a phenomenon, we must=20 base our inferences on the most scientifically rigorous evidence we=20 have available. Thus, even though there is not one study that=20 reflects all the variables that were operative in the Wee Care=20 interviews, we do have scientifically adequate knowledge about=20 most of these, and this knowledge leads prudent scientists to=20 conclude that if a study did include the sum total of the variables=20 that were operative in Wee Care, we would obtain a large numbers=20 of erroneous reports by preschoolers. In fact, many of us believe=20 that the available evidence is such that we anticipate even larger=20 numbers of erroneous reports than were reported in the research=20 reviewed earlier in this brief. In sum, although there is always=20 some risk when generalizing from scientific studies to real world=20 analogs, scientists believe that the best basis for doing this is to=20 extrapolate from the corpus of research that comes closest to=20 matching the constellation of variables that operate in the real=20 world, even if the match is less than perfect. The alternative is to=20 eschew insights, predictions, or hypotheses gained from=20 systematic, controlled studies in lieu of anecdotes, personal=20 opinions, and ideological views. =20 Summary We have argued that the investigation of child sexual abuse=20 allegations is a complex matter fraught with problems. Scientists=20 have begun to contribute important insights to these problems,=20 though clearly more research is needed. Regardless of the=20 complexities of the research, the present state of scientific=20 knowledge permits us to make the following general statements=20 about the reliability of the testimony of the child witnesses.=20 1. There are reliable age effects in children's suggestibility,=20 with preschoolers being more vulnerable than older children to a=20 host of factors that contribute to unreliable reports. 2. Although young children are often accurate reporters, some do make mist= akes --=20 particularly when they undergo suggestive interviews; and these errors can = involve not only=20 peripheral details, but also central, predictable (i.e., scripted) events t= hat involve their own bodies. =20 It is also the case that suggestive questioning not only distorts children'= s factual recall, but it also=20 has a strong influence on their interpretation of events. 3. Measures can be taken to lessen the risk of suggestibility effects. To= date, the factors=20 that we know most about concern the nature of the interview itself--its fre= quency, degree of=20 suggestiveness, and demand characteristics. =A5 A child's report is less likely to be distorted, for example, after one= interview=20 than after several interviews (the term "interviews" here includes informal= =20 conversations between parents and child about the target events). =A5 Interviewers who ask non-leading questions, who do not have a confirmat= ory=20 bias (i.e., an attachment to a single hypothesis), and who do not repeat cl= ose- ended yes/no questions within or across interviews, are more likely to obta= in=20 accurate reports from children. =A5 Interviewers who are patient, non-judgmental, and who do not attempt to= =20 create demand characteristics (e.g., by providing subtle rewards for certai= n=20 responses) are likely to elicit the best quality reports from young childre= n. Thus, at one extreme we can have more confidence in a child's spontaneous s= tatements made=20 prior to any attempt by an adult to elicit what they suspect may be the tru= th. At the other extreme,=20 we are more likely to be concerned when a child has made a statement after = prolonged, repeated,=20 suggestive interviews. 4. Finally, it is also important that the court appreciate the complexity = of the=20 interrelationships of the factors affecting children's suggestibility. As = in most areas of social=20 science, effects are rarely as straightforward as one might wish. Even tho= ugh suggestibility effects=20 may be robust, the effects are not universal. Results vary between studies= and children's behavior=20 varies within studies. Thus, even in studies with pronounced suggestibilit= y effects, there are=20 always some children who are highly resistant to suggestion. We have seen = this in our own=20 studies as well as in the transcripts of the Wee Care interviews: in some = cases, no matter how=20 much an interviewer may try to suggest that an event occurred, some childre= n will consistently=20 resist and not incorporate the interviewer's suggestion or point of view. = On the other side,=20 although suggestibility effects tend to be most dramatic after prolonged an= d repeated interviewing,=20 some children incorporate suggestions quickly, even after one short intervi= ew (e.g., Clarke- Stewart, et al., 1989 ).=20 The authors of this brief are fully aware of the immense=20 obstacles that face those who are charged with investigating and=20 reporting suspected child maltreatments. In no way do we want to=20 convey the attitude that we deny the seriousness of the problem of=20 child sexual abuse in today's society. The focus of our research and=20 our arguments, however, is that unless one is very careful in the=20 interviewing procedures that one uses with young children=20 suspected of abuse, that one may never make an accurate=20 determination of whether or not abuse occurred. This is because=20 there are a number of interviewing procedures that have the=20 potential to make non-abused children look like abused children. =20 These are the same conditions that were used in the interviews=20 with the Wee Care children. Given our present state of scientific=20 knowledge, there are no valid scientific tests to determine which of=20 the children's reports were accurate. The fact that these children=20 underwent extremely suggestive interviews makes the=20 determination of accuracy impossible. The authors of this brief also wish to convey their deep concern=20 over the children in this case. Our concern is that if there were=20 incidents of sexual abuse, the faulty interviewing procedures make=20 it impossible to ever know who the perpetrators were and how the=20 abuse occurred. Thus poor interviewing procedures make it=20 difficult to detect real abuse. But we have further concerns. And=20 these involve the interviewing techniques which we view as abusive=20 in themselves. After reading a number of these interviews, it is=20 difficult to believe that adults charged with the care and protection=20 of young children would be allowed to use the vocabulary that they=20 used in these interviews, that they would be allowed to interact=20 with the children in such sexually explicit ways, or that they would=20 be allowed to bully and frighten their child witnesses in such a=20 shocking manner. No amount of evidence that sexual abuse had=20 actually occurred could ever justify the use of these techniques=20 especially with three- and four-year-old children. Above and=20 beyond the great stress, intimidation, and embarrassment that many=20 of the children so obviously suffered during the interviews, we are=20 deeply concerned about the long-lasting harmful effects of=20 persuading children that they have been horribly sexually and=20 physically abused, when in fact there may have been no abuse until=20 the interviews began. The authors of this brief will be permanently=20 disturbed that children were interviewed in such abusive=20 circumstances regardless of the ultimate guilt of the accused.


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