Dolls, Diagrams and Drawings: Interviewers’ Perspectives on Visual Aids in Child Witness Interviews
In cases of child maltreatment child witnesses are often the sole sources of information about the suspected events, meaning their contribution to an investigation is critical. However, children may find recounting their experiences in sufficient detail challenging (Poole & Bruck, 2012). Visual aids are the tools (e.g. diagrams, drawings, and dolls) forensic interviewers often use in interviews to help children remember or describe their experiences and overcome children’s social and cognitive limitations. Research evaluating these aids indicates that any gains in information, reported by children, are typically accompanied by significant increases in false details, thus compromising the accuracy of accounts (Brown, 2011). The purpose of this study was to establish the extent to which interviewers in New Zealand use visual aids with children, and their knowledge of relevant research and the national interviewing protocol. Thirty-one New Zealand Specialist Child Witness Interviewers completed a questionnaire that assessed how and why they use aids, and their knowledge of, and adherence to, the literature and protocols guiding interviewer practice with visual aids. Interviewers’ responses indicated they used a range of aids, with both younger and older children, for a range of reasons, many of which have not been extensively researched. Generally, interviewers had poor knowledge of the existing research and protocol guidelines, and knowledge did not predict adherence to the recommendations. The findings identify the need to educate interviewers about the evidence-base surrounding various aids, as well as conducting research that more closely reflects how aids are used with children.