Evaluating Investigative Interviews with Children in New Zealand
Child witnesses can give informative and reliable testimony when they are interviewed appropriately. Interviews in New Zealand follow the Specialist Child Interviewing Model which is consistent with international evidence-based practice. This study examined investigative interviews with children in New Zealand through interviewers’ adherence to preparatory and structural components of the model, their interviewing strategy, and how interviewers responded when children demonstrated difficulty. Interviewers (n = 24) demonstrated good adherence to preparatory components of the model and typically responded well when children expressed difficulty in answering questions. The practice interview was generally brief and comprised largely of invitations, with limited variety in questioning strategies and associated pairing of invitations, with more focused questions. When eliciting the child’s account, interviewers relied predominantly on direct questions rather than invitations to obtain information. On average, interviewers posed three direct or option posing questions in a row before introducing an invitation style prompt, indicating a departure from recommended practice. Training and development resources could focus on the practice narrative interview, to increase the depth and breadth of questioning used with children. This would thereby better achieve its intended function as a precursor to the questioning strategies adopted during the substantive phase. Further, increasing the emphasis on pairing as an important aspect of good interviewing practice may minimise interviewers’ use of direct questions and increase the frequency of invitations (open and cued) to promote best-practice.