Police officers' use of emotional language during child sexual abuse investigations

Gavin Oxburgh, T. Williamson, James Ost

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This paper examined the use of emotional language by police officers that interview child victims as well as suspects during sexual offence investigations. It was hypothesised that officers who interviewed child victims prior to questioning suspects would use more emotional utterances during interviews with the suspect than those who had not interviewed the child victims. In addition, it was also hypothesised that the number of emotional utterances used would vary as a function of the gender of the interviewer and the type of offence (e.g. intra or extrafamilial abuse). Thirty-four interview transcripts of investigative interviews with alleged sex offenders were analysed and, contrary to the hypothesis, the results revealed a significant effect of prior acquaintance with the victim, in that a greater number of negative emotional utterances (e.g. contempt, disgust and anger) were used by interviewers who had not previously interviewed the victim. There were no significant effects with regard to gender of the interviewer or the type of offence (e.g. extra, or intrafamilial abuse) and the study found that, despite recent recommendations, the majority of police officers had not received specialist investigative interviewing specific to sex offenders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-45
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2006


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