The competency of children as eye witnesses : the effect question order has on the accuracy of recall.
The child's role as an eye witness has received a great deal of attention over the last decade. The current debate regarding the competence and credibility of child witnesses is being addressed by both the Legal and Psychological fields. This research focuses on establishing if a relationship exists between the order of the questions and the accuracy of recall. Children aged six and seven were questioned using a variety of protocols about an incident which they had witnessed. The research question is discussed within the broad theoretical area of children as eye witnesses. Highlighted is the burgeoning research in the area, which evidences conceptual confusion and conflicting results. The processes involved in memory, encoding and retrieval are discussed in relation to the broader area. Factors affecting reliability such as suggestibility and vulnerability of the child as a witness are discussed: Methods of interviewing children are investigated within a developmental framework. Suggestions are made as to how the reliability of children's testimony may be enhanced by the interviewing process. The results of this study indicated that the order in which questions were asked did not have a significant effect on the accuracy of recall of this sample of children aged six and seven. The limitations of this study were noted and a descriptive account of the children's responses was discussed. This discussion concludes that a need for further research still exists in this area. In addition particular emphasis should be directed towards how children, within the broader context of the interviewing process, respond so that future research may produce more rich and reliable information about child witnesses.