Repeated interviews with children who have intellectual disabilities
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Background We predicted that repeated interviewing would improve the informativeness of children with intellectual disabilities who were questioned in criminal investigations. Materials The chronological ages of the 19 children, involved in 20 cases, ranged between 4.7 and 18 years (M = 10.3 years) at the time of the first alleged abuse. Method The utterances used by interviewers to elicit information in both initial and later interviews were examined. We then assessed the substantive information provided in both interviews and compared information elicited using focused questions in the initial interview with responses about the same topic elicited using open questions in the second interview. Results The hypothesis was supported: over 80% of the information reported in the repeated interviews was about completely new topics or was new information elaborating upon previously discussed topics. However, because the interviewing techniques were so poor in both first and second interviews, information provided in the repeated interviews may have been contaminated irrespective of the children's capacities. Conclusion When children with intellectual disabilities are given a second chance to provide information about their abuse, they can further develop the information that they report and even provide entirely new information about their experiences. When interviewers are not specially trained in how to interview children with intellectual disabilities, we cannot assume that repeated interviews provide reliable and accurate information, however.