Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Nicole E. Lytle

Committee Member

Jason J. Dickinson

Committee Member

Tina M. Zottoli

Committee Member

Sonja P. Brubacher


Maltreatment allegations most often arise during informal conversations between a child and a non-maltreating parent or caregiver. Due to the sensitive nature of these conversations, the ways in which parents respond and in turn question their children about the events they have experienced can take many forms. The conversational dynamics that occur between caregivers and their children during the subsequent dialogue that ensues can impact the accuracy and completeness of children’s reports, as well as children’s memory of the alleged maltreatment or abuse. Legal professionals and developmental psychologists have expressed concern regarding how such conversations may impact children’s later testimony.

Best practices for questioning children about their experiences have been identified within the forensic literature. Given what is known from the research, conversational dynamics that support children’s accurate and complete narrative accounts are characterized by open-ended prompts, rather than long sequences of focused questions, or the use of suggestive, leading, or repeated questions (which may reflect questions that stem from adults’ a priori beliefs, rather than the child’s actual experience). A supportive style of reminiscing is one that facilitates a child’s accurate and complete narrative account. In an effort to determine the extent to which parent conversational styles impact the completeness and accuracy of children’s memory reports, this paper examines conversational dynamics, namely structure (elaboration) and control (autonomy support), between parents and their children about suspected wrongdoing by an unfamiliar adult.

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