‘What am I bringing into the room?’ Perception and management of interviewer bias in child sexual abuse interviews: an interpretative phenomenological analysis

Eimear Lacey, Karl Nunkoosing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Several high-profile cases in the USA in the 1980s and 1990s revealed the impact that interviewer bias can have on children's accounts of child sexual abuse (CSA). Since then, researchers and practitioners have explored techniques to address this, leading to refined interviewing techniques, greater understanding of suggestibility and memory, and the development of best practice guidelines. However, a gap remains in understanding how professionals themselves manage their interviewer bias. This interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) examines professionals' perceptions and management of interviewer bias when assessing CSA allegations. Eight professionals across social work, clinical/counselling psychology and psychiatry employed in specialist services across Ireland participated in semi-structured interviews to explore this question. Ethical approval was obtained from the relevant university and the first author's organisational panel. IPA identified three superordinate themes: Quality Assurance; Collaborative Approach; and Professional Identity - Personal Self. The professionals considered interviewer bias to have potentially detrimental impacts upon both the interview process and possible outcomes. They move from a definition of bias related specifically to a priori beliefs to a definition in which bias is a more dynamic process. A multidisciplinary approach alongside the constant reviewing of practice is considered essential to ensuring a high standard of practice, accountability and integrity of assessments.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalChild Abuse Review
Early online date16 Nov 2021
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online - 16 Nov 2021

Keywords

  • child sexual abuse
  • interviewer bias
  • forensic/investigative interviewing
  • interpretative phenomenological analysis

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