How children talk about events: Implications for eliciting and analyzing eyewitness reports

S. P. Brubacher, C. Peterson, David la Rooy, J. J. Dickinson, D. A. Poole

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Legal and social service professionals often question whether various features of young witnesses’ responses during interviews are characteristic of children’s event reports or whether these features are concerning findings that reflect degraded memory, outside influence, or other phenomena. To assist helping professionals and researchers who collect data through interviews, we aggregated findings from child eyewitness studies and revisited transcript sets to construct fifteen principles that capture how children talk about events. These principles address children’s earliest event narratives, how children report information as interviews unfold and typical features of their narratives, threats to the accuracy of answers, the influence of interviewers’ language on children’s styles of reporting, how testimonies compare across multiple interviews and multiple witnesses to the same event, and the structure of accurate and inaccurate reports. A summary table highlights the implications of these principles for interviewers and the decision-makers who analyze children’s reports.
Keywords: children, eyewitness memory, event reports, narrative structure
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-89
Number of pages20
JournalDevelopmental Review
Early online date27 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • children, eyewitness memory, event reports, narrative structure

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