Wh- prompts (what, how, why, who, when, where) vary widely in their specificity and accuracy, but differences among them have largely been ignored in research examining the productivity of different question-types in child testimony. We examined 120 6- to 12-year-olds’ criminal court testimony in child sexual abuse cases to compare the productivity of various wh- prompts. We distinguished among what/how prompts, most notably: what/how-happen prompts focusing generally on events, what/how-dynamic prompts focusing on actions or unfolding processes/events, what/how-causality prompts focusing on causes and reasons, and what/how-static prompts focusing on non-action contextual information regarding location, objects, and time. Consistent with predictions, what/how-happen prompts were the most productive, and both what/how-dynamic prompts and wh- prompts about causality were more productive than other wh- prompts. Prosecutors asked proportionally more what/how-dynamic prompts and fewer what/how-static prompts than defense attorneys. Future research and interviewer training may benefit from finer discrimination among wh- prompts.
Child Psychology | Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Developmental Psychology | Evidence | Family Law | Juvenile Law | Law | Law and Psychology
Date of this Version
Samantha J. Andrews, Elizabeth C. Ahern, Stacia N. Stolzenberg, and Thomas D. Lyon, "The Productivity of Wh- Prompts When Children Testify" (January 2017). University of Southern California Legal Studies Working Paper Series. Working Paper 187.