Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Forensic Psychology



First Advisor or Mentor

Kelly McWilliams

Second Reader

Charles B. Stone

Third Advisor

Emily Haney-Caron


One type of forensically-relevant information that can be difficult to obtain is that pertaining to the “mechanics of abuse.” More specifically, information that includes the descriptions of body positioning and clothing placement. Generally, the recommended strategy for questioning children in legal and forensic settings is to use broad invitations (e.g., “Tell me everything that happened”) and wh- questions (e.g., who, what, where, when, why, how). However, when it comes to the mechanics of abuse, there is some conflicting evidence. Some research suggests open-ended wh- questions are best in cases where the mechanics are hard to describe (e.g., intermediate clothing placement) (Stolzenberg et al., 2017a). However, it has also been argued that some forms of wh- questions about these topics (e.g., how questions) may be too broad or abstract for young children within the context of an interview. The current study examined 5- to 10-year-old children’s responses to wh- questions about both mechanics of abuse and non-mechanics of abuse information after viewing a threatening or non-threatening stimulus to determine if wh- questions (largely “what” questions) are too broad or ambiguous for young children. Results indicate that young children are able to respond to wh- questions about these topics with few expressions of confusion; however, age differences did emerge suggesting these questions may need to be used with caution when questioning very young children (i.e.., 5 to 6 years old and younger).



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