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Conversations with children : interviewer style in evidential and therapeutic interviews

By Katharine Jane Thurlow


According to the Home Office Memorandum (1992), a rapport-building phase should always be included at the start of an interview with a child undertaken for criminal proceedings. Research on rapport-building in investigative interviews with children has tended to focus on interviewer techniques in motivating children to give more detailed narratives in the substantive phase of the interview. Little is understood\ud about the way rapport is built or the importance of the relationship between the police officer and the\ud child. Research on the relationship in psychotherapy, however, has found that it is an important predictor\ud of outcome, and that therapists' in-session behaviours differ in high and low alliance therapies. This study\ud was undertaken to investigate how police officers build rapport in evidential interviews with children, and\ud to explore difference in interviewer verbal behaviour between police officers and clinical child\ud psychologists in initial therapeutic interviews.\ud \ud A brief survey of police officers' and clinical child psychologists' perceptions of the initial phase of an\ud interview with a child was conducted. Verbal behaviours of police officers in the rapport-building phase of investigative interviews with children were explored using Stiles' (1992) verbal response modes (VRM) coding system. These behaviours were then compared with those of clinical child psychologists in initial therapeutic interviews with children. Comparisons were also made between police officers talking to children and published profiles of conversations investigated using Stiles (1992) taxonomy.\ud \ud The results of the survey revealed that police officers (N = 18) and clinical psychologists (N = 22) had similar perceptions of the initial phase of interviews with children. Whilst some differences were found in VRM profiles, with respect to Edification, Advisement, Acknowledgement and Reflection Intents, the speech acts of police officers (N = 44) and clinical psychologists (N = 8) were generally similar. Further analysis of police officers' verbal behaviour revealed significant main and interaction effects of child and interviewer characteristics. Comparisons were made between police officers'VRMs and speakers in other conversational settings. These revealed that police officers spoke to children in rapport-building most like parents talking to children, the clinical child psychologists in this study, and radio programine hosts talking to callers with psychological issues, and least like attorneys questioning witnesses.\ud \ud This study has raised a number of issues for further investigation. Future research should emphasise the\ud importance of investigating the interpersonal processes of rapport-building in evidential interviews with children, and explore differences in the quality of rapport built and the effects of such differences.\ud \u

Publisher: School of Medicine (Leeds)
Year: 1999
OAI identifier:

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