Can rapport building strategies, age, and question type influence preschoolers’ disclosures of adult wrongdoing?

Mikaela Magnusson, Emelie Ernberg, Sara Landström, Malin Joleby, Lucy Akehurst

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In the present experiment, we examined preschoolers’ disclosures of a secret as a function of rapport building strategies used in Scandinavian field settings (verbal rapport building vs. prop rapport building), age in months (33–75 months) and question type (open‐ended free recall invitation vs. suggestive questions). Fifty‐three preschoolers (M = 60.5 months old, SD = 11.4) witnessed a researcher break a toy and were asked to keep the toy breakage a secret. The children were thereafter interviewed about the incident. Overall, 18.9% of the children disclosed the secret after an open‐ended free recall invitation. The disclosure rate rose to 83% after the final phase of the interviews when questions containing suggestive details were asked of the children. Notably, we did not observe any significant effects as a function of manipulating rapport building strategy. A linear regression model showed that child age (in months) significantly predicted the amount of reported details, with younger preschoolers reporting fewer details compared to older preschoolers. Age also predicted the amount of correct details, but not the amount of incorrect details. No age differences were found with regard to children’s disclosure tendencies or proportion of central details about the secret. Methodological limitations and practical implications will be addressed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-401
Number of pages9
JournalScandinavian Journal of Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date13 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • children's testimony
  • child witness
  • police interviewing techniques
  • rapport building
  • preschoolers


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