Committee Chair

Warren, Amye R.


Dept. of Psychology


College of Arts and Sciences


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


A direct consequence of the increasing number of reported cases of child sexual abuse is an influx of court cases involving allegations of sexual abuse. These allegations are accompanied by investigative interviews of the parties involved in the cases, including the alleged child victims. It is imperative that the investigative interviewing process be objective and reliable enough to be admissible in court in order for justice to be served in the best interests of the child through the due process of law. Cases such as the infamous McMartin trial (People v. Buckey, 1984), which ended in a hung jury after becoming the longest and most expensive trial in California to date, confirm the impact of the interviewing process on trial proceedings and demonstrate the consequences that interview quality can have in court. The purpose of this study was to evaluate 23 transcripts of actual investigative interviews conducted with alleged child victims of sexual abuse in various counties in Tennessee and to compare the procedures followed in these interviews with recommended interview guidelines provided by expert researchers in the field of child witnesses (i.e.,Bull, 1991; Everson & Boat, 1993; Jones & McQuiston, 1988; Pence & Wilson, 1994; Warren & McGough, in press; Yuille, 1988). The components of the interviewing process suggested to be essential by the researchers were compiled into a checklist, and each of the 23 interview transcripts was evaluated against this checklist. The interview elements included in the checklist were rapport building, practice interview, information gathering, truth/lie competency testing, good/bad touch competency testing, ground rules/warning, free narrative, abuse questions, use of props, and closure. Each transcript was further assessed according to the number of utterances produced by the interviewer( s) and the child. Overall, the interviews used in this study appeared to adhere to recommended guidelines, but there were several pivotal incongruities. Very few of the interviews included the elements considered by experts to be most important to the quality of the interview. Only ten interviews used a rapport building session, all but one of the interviews neglected to include a free narrative by the child, and only four interviews were terminated appropriately. Evaluation of the utterances also showed that interviewers produced almost twice as many utterances as the children did. Interviewers tended to include truth/lie competency testing sections in interviews with younger children (ages 5 and under) and were also significantly more likely to include a purpose statement with younger children than with older children. The results of present study suggest several important conclusions. First, a standardized interviewing procedure similar to that used in Great Britain (Memorandum of Good Practice, 1992) must be established in the United States. Second, all individuals who interview children should be required to undergo extensive training in the proper procedures for interviewing children.


My greatest thanks goes to Dr. Amye Warren, my committee chairperson without whom this research would never have reached fruition. I am also eternally grateful to Dr. Nicky Ozbek, and Dr. Gui-Yong Hong for providing invaluable advice and encouragement as my research committee. I would also like to express appreciation to Charles Wilson, the Director of Social Services for the Tennessee Department of Human Services, for providing permission to use the transcripts evaluated in this study and to Barbara Boat and Mark Everson at UNC Chapel Hill for forwarding the transcripts to us. To Cara Porter who provided extensive assistance in evaluating the transcripts, I extend my deepest gratitude. Finally, I must offer my utmost appreciation to my husband, Lee, who provided me with incredible support and understanding and cooked for me even when I was too tired to eat and above all to God, in Whom all things are indeed possible.


M. S.; A thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Science.




Social work with children--United States--Tennessee; Child welfare; Child sexual abuse--Investigation


Counseling Psychology

Document Type

Masters theses




viii, 105 leaves



Call Number

LB2369.2 .E455 1995