Analysis of field investigative interviews of children conducted by specially trained police investigators
Appears in the following Collection
- Psykologisk institutt 
AbstractThe research of field investigative interviews of children (FIIC) are mainly studiesof individual factors by the children and interviewers, largely driven by a concern for non-contamination of the childrens` memory of the alleged offence in the interaction between the child and the interviewer. During the course of the present research, 100 videotaped FIIC, conducted by special trained interviewers, have been analysed and include some of the most prominent variables that are considered vital in the literature related to FIIC. The main objective of the thesis was to identify how specially trained interviewers conduct FIIC and study the factors facilitating thelength of the interviewee’s responses. Four central areas of interest were studied. Focusing on the structure of the interviews, the first study sought to examine the standard of FIIC set against a structured interview model developed in England & Wales. The English model attempts to accord with psychological principles that lead to effective interviewing and so, if appropriately followed, such interviews should enhance the elicitation of more accurate material. Set against these principles of best practice, the analysis of the Norwegian FIIC indicated that a number of inappropriate and ineffective strategies appeared to be used in the police interviews. For example, in the literature, there is an agreement that open questions, as opposed to closed questions, are more likely to elicit longer accounts. The second study assessed the effect of interview training on police officers’ use of open and closed questions in FIIC. In all interviews the mean number were 20 open and 217 closed questions, corresponding to an open-closed question ratio (OCR) of 1:10. Contrary to our hypothesis, analyses of variance (ANOVA) showed no main effect of competence. In the distribution of questions throughout the interview there were a descending number of open questions while the distribution of closed questions showed an inverted U-distribution with most frequent use of closed questions in the middle part of the interviews.
Focusing on the children's responses, the third study reviewed and analysed some of the most prominent variables considered to facilitate the interviewees` responses in the literature of FIIC. Of all the variables, the categories of the interviewers` utterances had most impact on the children's responses with the open questions eliciting the longest answers. The variable to follow was the children's age, with the oldest children yielding longer responses than the younger children to the open questions. Contrary to our hypothesis, the interviewers` competence, childrens` gender, nor time had the expected impact on the length of the childrens` responses.
Finally, we wanted to analyse if some of the often sited variables affecting FIIC also affects the outcome of the case as judged by the prosecutors or the courts. One hundred FIIC were divided into one of the three different legal outcome possibilities in child sexual abuse cases:(i) insufficient evidence to proceed(IEP); (ii) convictions; or (iii) acquittals by the court. The results indicate that the courts decisions are affected by the length of the children's responses in their testimonies. Amongst the female interviewees older than 10 years, there were no cases of acquittals and the convicted cases were overrepresented. The childrens` response to open questions was found to be the main difference between the three FIIC outcomes. The childrens` verbal competence effect clearly demonstrates the importance for interviewers, the prosecution services, and the courts to conduct content analysis of the interviews, and improve their procedures in evaluation of FIIC.
Conclusion: In the analysis of the most prominent variables in FIIC the conclusion of the present thesis could be summarised around three main findings. Firstly, the interviewer’s use of open questions was demonstrated to be the benchmark in FIIC, eliciting the longest answers compared to any of the other variables. Secondly, interviewing skills are not static. Even if the interviewers do have the knowledge and the research-based recommendations are endorsed, they are not implemented in the interviewers’ way of conducting FIIC in practice. Thirdly, there is a verbal competence effect in court. The results indicate that the courts decisions are affected by the length of the children's responses to the interviewer’s open questions.
LIST OF PAPERS
Myklebust, T., & Alison, L. (2000). The current state of police interviews with children in Norway: How discrepant are they from models based on current issues in memory and communication? Psychology, Crime & Law, 6, 331-351. DOI: 10.1080/10683160008409810
Myklebust, T., & Bjørklund, R. A. (2006). The effect of long-term training on police officers' use of open and closed questions in field investigative interviews of children (FIIC). Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 3, 165-181. DOI: 10.1002/jip.52
Myklebust, T., & Bjørklund, R. A. (in press). Factors affecting the length of responses in field investigative interviews of children (FIIC) in child sexual abuse cases. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law.
Myklebust, T., & Bjørklund, R. A. (2009). The Child Verbal Competence Effect in Court: A Comparative Study of Field Investigative Interviews of Children (FIIC) in Child Sexual Abuse Cases. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 6 (2), 117-128. DOI: 10.1002/jip.97