“Lockdown was 100 months ago”: Children’s Ability to Recall Temporal Information
Sometimes children need to be interviewed about a crime that they’ve witnessed or experienced. Investigators will ask them about what happened and who was there, and they will also want to know about when. However, we know little about how well children can recall temporal details of their experiences. We examined children’s reporting of temporal information in two interviews with children from across New Zealand, about their experiences with COVID-19 in 2020. Results indicated that children provided more temporal information when specifically prompted than in their spontaneous accounts, but the accuracy of these details (irrespective of whether they were freely recalled or prompted) was low. Additionally, older children reported more temporal information and were more accurate than younger children. Our findings suggest that children 1) may not encode temporal details of their experiences, and 2) may attempt to offer up such information when asked, in the absence of knowledge or recall of the information. Although the judicial system may expect such information to be included in children’s testimony about events—meaning that interviewers are encouraged to elicit it from children—the information is unlikely to be accurate and may undermine children’s credibility or the validity of verdicts reached in the courtroom.