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The Advice Parents Give Their Children During Police Questioning

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posted on 12.04.2021, 00:50 by Milne, Arran
Justice systems often assume that the participation of a trusted adult compensates for the developmental differences young people exhibit when understanding and applying their legal rights. We recruited a community sample of parents with children between the ages of 10-18 years to examine the advice they provided in hypothetical police questioning situations. All participants read scenarios where they imagined their child was being questioned by police, then selected the advice they would give their child. Participants were quasi randomly allocated to the Extra Information (EI) condition (n = 49) or the Business as Usual (BAU) condition (n = 56 ). Those allocated to the EI group watched a video which told them their child’s legal rights, explained these rights to them and explained their role as their child’s nominated person. Those allocated to the BAU group watched a video in which they were informed of their child’s legal rights. Parents then read more scenarios and asked what advice they would give their child. Pre-video advice was problematic with the optimum legal advice being provided 2.85% of the time, and participants advising their child to remain silent 13.57% of the time. Advice improved post-video in both groups, with the EI group improving slightly more than the BAU group. Overall, post-video advice to ‘remain silent’ increased significantly, and post-video advice to ‘tell the police everything’ decreased significantly. However, levels of optimum advice post-video remained low with just over half of participants being unable to provide the optimum legal advice for any of the post-video scenarios. Our results point to gaps in parents’ understanding of their children’s legal rights. This may prevent children from receiving the full benefit of the extra protections accorded to them by law. Future research should examine parents’ advice to their children in actual police interviews to establish the ecological validity of the current study.


Advisor 1

Brown, Deirdre

Advisor 2

Fortune, Clare-Ann

Copyright Date


Date of Award



Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Forensic Psychology

Degree Grantor

Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology