Does the Way We Teach Children Interview Ground Rules Impact the Number of Details They Provide?
Ground rules are instructions commonly provided to children in investigative interviews. The ultimate aim of ground rules is to help children provide accurate accounts and resist acquiescence. Therefore, it is no surprise that research into ground rule use has so far focused on the impact ground rule training has on the accuracy of children’s reports. Yet, the amount of information a child provides is also important when it comes to legal processes ensued when a child reports abuse. This study is unique as it focuses on how ground rule training impacts the amount of information a child provides and whether this varies as a result of more intense training. So far, there is little research available that systematically evaluates multiple training methods within one study. The current study involves a condition with no ground rule training, one with the standard training often suggested in interview protocols, and two more intense training methods informed by relevant learning theories. Children aged between 5 and 12-years-old experienced a live event at their school and were interviewed about this event after a delay of approximately 2-weeks. Results did not support the hypotheses that ground rule training method would impact the number of unique details provided by children and that this relationship would vary across age. Results also showed that children’s accuracy responding to questions used to elicit ground rule responses was not related to the number of details provided. A larger sample is necessary to investigate whether the findings of the current study are accurate when the analyses are satisfactorily powered. Currently, this study suggests that more intense ground rule training does not compromise the richness of children’s reports. Findings also indicate that children’s acquiescence to suggestive, unanswerable or confusing questions is not related to the amount of information they provide when asked answerable questions.