Interviewing children about trauma: problems with "specific" questions

J Trauma Stress. 1997 Apr;10(2):279-90. doi: 10.1023/a:1024882213462.


A methodological ambiguity is described that may well adversely affect the quality of information provided by young child witnesses. Because the information children provide during interviews is sometimes the only evidence in forensic situations, its quality is a serious concern. "Specific" questions are often necessary to elicit enough information, but we describe a confusion between wh- questions (which request particular information) and yes/no questions (which merely require confirmation or disconfirmation). Research in which children are systematically interviewed about stressful medical experiences is reviewed, and we present results of a pilot investigation in which 2- to 13-year-old children were interviewed about traumatic injuries necessitating hospital treatment. Yes/no questions were problematic for preschoolers. Implications for testimony are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic / methods*
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychology, Child
  • Wounds and Injuries*