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Interviewing Children

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1 Interviewing Children
Skills, Principles, and Protocols: Child Development and Linguistic Implications

2 Interviewing Children Contents
Skills Principles Protocols Child Development Linguistic Implications Cultural Considerations

3 Basic Interview Skills
Inquiry: process of asking questions Reflecting: process of communicating to the client that you have heard them Observing: non-verbal behaviors; incorporating this info into your communication with the client Listening: 2 ears & 1 mouth Evaluating: process of making sense of what you have been told; decisions, reframe

4 Basic Interview Principles
Child friendly: their best interest comes first Sit on the same level Limit # of words used in a sentence Avoid pronouns Use the child’s language and terms Check the child’s understanding of what you have said; ask the child to repeat

5 Basic Interview Principles
If the child doesn’t understand: re-phase Avoid sentences with time sequences Patience Language effects understanding Paraphrase to make sure you understand the child’s version Summarize to review for the child

6 Child Interviews: A Comparison
Clinical Goal: Understand child’s psychological state and overall functioning client: child; parent Role of Professional: therapeutic/advocate Stance: Pro-child Forensic Goal: Obtaining uncontaminated data Client: Child’s needs are a priority, however, the client = judicial system Role of Professional: fact finder Stance: Neutral

7 Child Interviews: A Comparison
Clinical Assumption: Trustworthiness of child; important suggestive reality Technique: Therapeutic Forensic Assumption: Consider multiple hypothesis and questioning reflects this; important objective reality Technique: legally defensible

8 Forensic Interview Protocol
Rapport Goal is to establish comfort, communication, competence child drawing Truth/Lie component Reliability instructions family, house, & school drawing

9 Forensic Interview Protocol
Anatomy Identification Goal is to identify the child’s terms for body parts Use appropriate drawings gender age race

10 Forensic Interview Protocol
Touch Inquiry Goal is to explore touches he or she likes; Touches he or she doesn’t like; Where on the body he or she likes touches; doesn’t like touches; Questions will move from general to specific

11 Forensic Interview Protocol
Abuse Scenario Goal to to explore any statements about abusive touches: Did anything happen? Fact Finding Verbal disclosure Dolls: use if verbal disclosure is made

12 Forensic Interview Protocol
Closure/Prevention Scenario Goal is to help the child identify who are “safe” people to tell if it happens again; and to Thank the child for hard work, not for what they told

13 Thoughts to Keep in Mind
Am I going to fast? Am I hearing this child? Am I sacrificing the child’s interests for some other objective? Is my attention on the child’s words, behavior, and emotions? Am I failing to reassure the child or to remove blocks to communication?

14 Thoughts to Keep in Mind
Am I too anxious about “getting the information?” Am I trying to “confirm” rather than “discover” abuse? Am I driven by a desire to “get the offender?” Am I concerned about how I’m going to look if the interview doesn’t “produce?”

15 Child Language Development
Very young children can tell us what they know; provided we ask the right questions; and we ask them in the right way 2-3 year olds can recall & report past experiences (Hewitt, 1999) 3 year olds have testified competently and credibly in court (State v Brovold; Minn. 1991)

16 Language Development Pre-School
Use and interpret language literally Don’t handle abstractions well Have difficulty collecting ideas into categories Use words for time, distance, size, etc. long before they understand meaning Define words in simple, action-oriented ways

17 Language Development Preschool
Difficulty with pronoun reference Difficulty with negatives May supply responses to questions even if they have no knowledge Do best with simple sentences: Subject, Verb, Object. Focus on one aspect of a question

18 Language Development Pre-School
Don’t organize events like adults; may omit settings, descriptors, etc. Still acquiring language Usually don’t know they don’t understand something Believe, in general, that adults speak the truth, are sincere, and would not trick them

19 Language Development School Age (7-10)
Still have difficulty with abstract concepts Still struggle with processing complex questions Still make errors with passives and pronoun preference Still confused by complex negation Still not mature at organizing details

20 Language Development School Age (7-10)
Still unequipped to deal with adult insincerity; sarcasm, irony, etc. May still believe adults, in general, tell the truth

21 Language Development Adolescents (11-18)
May or may not have developed adult narrative skills May not understand time as a historical and day-to-day concept Some difficulty with complex negation Confused by linguistic ambiguity: ads, idioms, metaphors, jokes, etc.

22 Language Development Adolescents (11-18)
May lose track of long, complex questions Reluctant to ask for clarification or acknowledge they don’t understand Many teens may be developmentally “stuck”

23 Language Development Key Suggestions
Use simple, common, everyday words and phrases Use names and places instead of pronouns Stay away from negatives

24 Language Development Key Suggestions
Use questions/comments that keep the # of ideas to a minimum Start your questions/comments with the main idea Remember you are speaking with a child

25 Language Development Key Dynamics
We don’t interview children interview one child at a time age, disability/ability, trauma, cultural differences Language shaped by experience see, hear, experience how words are used; the context significant variability

26 Language Development Key Dynamics
Children & adults don’t speak the same language Language is not an all or nothing affair Inconsistency = normal Children are literal in their approach to language; cognitively - moving from general to particular is not developed

27 Language Development Key Dynamics
Adult-like use doesn’t reflect adult-like understanding: language & cognition Difficulty with multi-part, multi-idea questions Pausing is productive Children will not necessarily tell you that they don’t understand

28 Language Development Key Dynamics
Framing is good Children’s responses may not be answers to your questions: Reciting cultural lists not the same as ability to understand the contents; alphabet, days of the week, etc. Children acquire the ability to provide a narrative account = usually sometime in teens

29 Language Development Key Dynamics
Some families talk to each other; some do not Familiarity matter So does culture Young children can be competent

30 Interviewing Children Pitfalls
Prepositions: most, not all acquired by 5-6 years old Pronouns/pointing words - mastery is slow Specific words: ahead of/behind; always/never; any; ask/tell; before/after; big; different/same; forget; first/last; inside; know/think/guess/sure; more/less; neither/either; some/all; touch; yesterday/today/tomorrow

31 Interviewing Children Pitfalls
Legalese Complex sentences abstractions & low frequency words; ambiguity; embedding; left-branching; negation; nominalizations; passives Two or more questions into one Asking restricted choice questions Asking DUR…..X questions

32 Interviewing Children Pitfalls
Asking manipulative questions “I believe you told us….”; “Isn’t it a fact…” Asking tag questions Shifting topics suddenly Asking about relative concepts age, dimensions, kinship, number, time Asking the difference between truth/lie

33 Interviewing Children Pitfalls
Asking children if they understand you Asking why questions Asking how questions Asking non-specific questions Asking children questions that require tracking: who said what to whom when Asking Jell-O questions

34 Cultural Considerations
Culture: a constantly changing pattern of behaviors relating to the values and beliefs of a group of people through which they adapt to one another and their physical and social environment; or Culture influences beliefs, behaviors, and choices

35 Cultural Considerations Native Americans
There is no resource more vital to the continued existence and integrity of the Indian Tribes than their children (ICWA). Strengthening families strengthens cultures Child rearing in the Indian culture is not a private affair: parents, extended family, clans, and tribes share responsibility

36 Cultural Considerations Native Americans
Family values, customs, and traditions vary among tribes; Also vary among different families of the same tribe; So each family must be viewed individually; Being Native may depend on tribal affiliation, degree of assimilation, and family history

37 Interviewing Children Cultural Considerations
Native American Historic distrust based on many years of exploitation and discrimination (note taking) Warm up or “talk stories”; warm, informal, light, personal conversations; humor Low key; non-directive; authentic & genuine demonstration of concern and active implementation of a desire to help

38 Interviewing Children Cultural Considerations
Native American Pausing between phrases, sentences or questions considered an integral part of communication; could be interpreted negatively or result in lost information if questions come to rapidly May lower head or not make eye contact as a sign of respect May use a subdued tone of voice

39 Interviewing Children Cultural Considerations
Native American kinship terms may refer to other than relatives Time may be marked by seasons, ceremonies, or activities; forget clock time; don’t rush Unquestioning loyalty and respect for elders

40 Cultural Considerations African American
Historic oppression & discrimination Continued economic oppression through differential job access Heterogeneous family types: two, single, blended, extended - strong kinship bonds Strong work orientation

41 Cultural Considerations African Americans
Adaptability of family roles High achievement orientation through education Religious orientation

42 Interviewing Children Cultural Considerations
African American Rapid overlapping speech is not viewed as rude loyalty and respect for elders Regional patois

43 Cultural Considerations Hispanic Americans
Historic oppression & discrimination Continued economic oppression through differential job access Diverse Importance of family/Compradrazgo Church Machismo

44 Interview Children Cultural Considerations
Hispanic Americans: Distrust “Talk stories” Low key, non-directive, genuine approach Bilingual

45 Cultural Considerations Asian-Pacific Islander Americans
Diverse group; 60 separate ethnic groups “Yellow Race” & “Brown Race” Filial piety; parents respected, revered, and obeyed; hierarchy based on age & gender Family/Clan honor - more important than individual members; shame controls Harmony - subordinate needs for the sake of peace

46 Interviewing Children Cultural Considerations
Asian-Pacific Islander Americans: Generation conflicts Distrust - usually don’t discuss family issues with outsiders “Talk stories” - oral traditions May respond to a direct, active and structured approach Speak little unless spoken to

47 Interviewing Children Cultural Considerations
Asian-Pacific Islander Americans: Loyal and respectful of elders Kinship terms may refer to friends of the family Harmony and self-effacement are valued Bilingual Interpreters

48 Cultural Competence A long term process of expanding horizons, thinking critically about issues of power and oppression, and acting appropriately. Acquisition of info: world view, customs, language, common history, family patterns, relationship & parenting styles, etc.

49 Cultural Competence Culturally competent individuals develop a mixture of beliefs, attitudes, knowledge, and skills that help them establish trust and communication with others.

50 References 1st witness Child Abuse Resource Center protocols/materials
Cohen, Neil. (1992). Child Welfafe: A Multicultural Focus. Needham Heights, MA.: Allyn P& Bacon.

51 References Graffam-Walker, Anne (1999). Handbook on Questioning Children: A Linguistic Perspective. Wash. D.C.: ABA Center on Children and the Law. Rauch, Julia, B. (1993). Assessment: A Sourcebook for Social Work Practice. Milwaukee, WI.: Families International Inc.

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