See other articles in PMC that cite the published article. Abstract The present study examined whether the use of human figure diagrams within a well-structured interview was associated with more elaborate and clearer accounts about physical contact that had occurred in the course of an alleged abuse.
The sample included investigative interviews of 88 children ranging from 4 to 13 years of age. Children were interviewed using the NICHD Investigative Interview Protocol, and were then asked a series of questions in association with unclothed gender-neutral outline diagrams of a human body. A new coding scheme was developed to examine the types and clarity of touch-related information. Use of the HFDs was associated with reports of new touches not mentioned before and elaborations regarding the body parts reportedly touched.
The HFDs especially helped clarify reports by the oldest rather than the youngest children. Most of the recent research has focused on verbal techniques. As a result, although nonverbal interviewing techniques are widely used in clinical and forensic settings, evidence about the effects of nonverbal techniques comes primarily from studies of anatomically detailed AD dolls, with little known about the possible benefits and risks associated with other nonverbal tools, including human figure diagrams HFDs.
The present study was designed to examine whether the use of human figure diagrams HFDs was associated with differences in the ways young victims of alleged sexual abuse provided information about touches that occurred during the alleged incidents. Dolls and drawings or diagrams can also facilitate the retrieval of information from memory by providing the kinds of concrete, external retrieval cues likely to assist young children e.
As a result, forensic investigators have been urged to avoid using such props or requests during investigative interviews e. Although perhaps less commonly used than dolls, HFDs are frequently used by and widely recommended to therapists and forensic interviewers for labelling body parts, aiding the recall of specific information, or clarifying verbal reports e.
In experimental research, findings on the use of HFDs are mixed. According to Steward et al. When the children were directly questioned using dolls and diagrams, they still failed to report many experienced touches, while reports of non-experienced touches increased.
Moreover, accuracy decreased as delays approached 6 months, with the diagrams eventually eliciting some spontaneous but erroneous reports of genital touches. Like Steward et al. Ten of the children reported no touches at all, fewer than half of the experienced touches were reported, and only half of the reported touches had actually occurred. When questioned about touch, most children provided new information after the HFDs were introduced, although children who were questioned in association with the diagrams reported more incorrect information than those not provided with HFDs.
Only one published study has examined the use of HFDs in a forensic context. A series of direct questions were then asked about all reported touches.
Because the diagrams were introduced following exhaustive retrieval, Aldridge et al. Whenever recognition memory prompts elicited information, furthermore, interviewers followed-up with free-recall prompts to foster elaboration while minimizing potential contamination on the quality of information elicited.
Building on Aldridge et al. Because HFDs were designed primarily to facilitate the identification of body parts, we expected that most of the elicited information would be about body parts rather than the characteristics of the alleged touches.
Specifically, we asked whether introduction of the HFDs was associated with greater clarity about the reported touches. One could argue that clearly reported touches may be highly inaccurate or at worst may not have occurred. On the other hand, unclear testimonies may confuse jurors to the extent that they influence their judgment, whether or not they are accurate. The clarity of information about body touch may be related to the type of prompts the interviewers used.
Although information elicited using free recall is more likely to be accurate than information elicited using focused recognition-based prompts e. Because there were varying delays between the alleged incidents and the investigative interviews in some of the cases studied here, we expected open-ended or recall prompts to elicit unclear touch details as frequently as focused or recognition prompts.
During the study period, these police officers rather than their colleagues were asked to investigate sexual abuse allegations involving 4-to year-old victims whenever possible.
All available Protocol-guided interviews that included the HFDs and yielded explicit allegations of fondling or penetrating sexual abuse were included in the study. All the allegations were deemed valid by police investigators, but conclusive corroborating evidence was seldom obtained. The first part of the rapport-building phase is designed to create a relaxed, supportive environment. Children are then prompted to describe a recently experienced neutral event in detail.
This training is designed to simulate the open-ended investigative strategies and techniques used in the substantive phase while demonstrating to children the specific level of detail expected. In the present study, the Protocol interview was followed by a series of structured questions please contact the corresponding author for a full copy of the protocol in which reference was made to unclothed frontal and dorsal , gender-neutral outline diagrams see Appendix A.
Because all of the children had already mentioned being touched by the perpetrator, the next prompt was a directive recall prompt i. Free-recall prompts were used to elicit further information whenever body contact was mentioned. Data coding The substantive portions of the interviews had previously been reviewed by two trained raters Aldridge et al. In our study, we collapsed these into two categories: Recall prompts included the following: Utterances prompting free-recall responses from the child.
Recognition prompts included the following: These are stated in such a way that the interviewer strongly communicates what response is expected e. By definition, details involved the identification of individuals, objects, and events and descriptions of their features e. All were thus forensically relevant. Details were only counted when they added to the understanding of the target incidents, so restatements of facts were not counted.
Details provided following facilitators were attributed to the preceding substantive utterance. In the analysis, reported here, details were considered only if they pertained to touches. In the present study, a new coding scheme was developed to examine the types of details children reported in relation to the alleged touch es they experienced.
Details pertaining to body touch were coded on three dimensions the type of touch detail, the clarity of the touch being described, and the type or category of prompt eliciting the touch detail. Repeated details about previously reported touches were not coded. Type of touch detail New touch details: More than one new touch detail could be coded in a single response.
New touch details may include more than one reference to actions or characteristics of the touch, but pertain to only a single body part. Elaboration with respect to body parts. Additional details including pointing at drawing about a previously mentioned body part e. Details that eliminated ambiguity about previously mentioned body parts were also coded as elaborations.
Elaboration with respect to the nature of touches. Additional details about previously mentioned actions, characteristics of the touches e. Details that eliminated ambiguity about previously mentioned actions were also coded as elaborations. Clarity of touch Unclear. Touches were coded as unclear when either the body part or action involved was not clear. Body parts were deemed unclear if they were unclearly named e. Actions were deemed unclear if they were unclearly named e.
Clarity was coded in such a way that elaborations about a touch continued to be coded as unclear unless the detail clarified the touch. Once clarity had been achieved, elaborations about the same touch were coded as clear. Agreement regarding the classification of body touch details was 1.
RESULTS Preliminary analyses In all reported analyses, the unit of analysis was the detail, rather than the touch, Only details related to touches were considered, so the numbers of details reported by Aldridge et al. Preliminary analyses of the data conducted using analyses of variance ANOVAs revealed no main effects of gender, number of incidents one vs. These independent variables were therefore excluded from the analyses reported below.
All the dependent variables had high levels of skewness and were thus log transformed before analyses of variance were conducted. Raw means and standard deviations are presented below. Analyses of variance results from within-subjects analyses on the effects of interview phase before vs. The number of elaborations about body part did not differ significantly before and after the introduction of the HFDs.