The purpose of this study was to examine whether the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Investigative Interview Protocol impacted child sexual abuse case outcomes within the justice system. The NICHD protocol (Orbach et al., 2000) was developed to translate experimentally based professional recommendations regarding interviewing strategies into operational guidelines. The NICHD protocol trains interviewers to use open-ended prompts and techniques and guides them through all phases of the investigative interview to maximize the amount of information elicited from free recall memory. The protocol strategies and techniques were developed in accordance with widespread evidence that free recall memory prompts are likely to elicit accurate information, whereas prompts that depend on recognition processes are associated with more erroneous responses. Specifically, the purpose of the study was to assess the effects of the NICHD protocol on decisions made regarding whether to arrest and charge a suspect, to submit a case for prosecution and to carry a case forward to the justice system, to assess the suspicion of abuse as unfounded or as lacking sufficient evidence to proceed with the filing of charges, and during the judicial process when charged cases reached court disposition, to proceed through either plea agreement or trial.
The researchers coded information from child protection and police reports, Children's Justice Center (CJC) intake forms, and the CJC electronic database to create a dataset on 1,280 alleged child sexual abuse cases involving children interviewed in Salt Lake County, Utah, between 1994 and 2000. Specifically, the research team gathered case characteristics and case outcomes data on 551 alleged child sexual abuse cases in which investigative interviews were conducted from 1994 to mid-September 1997 before the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Investigative Interview Protocol was implemented, and 729 alleged child sexual abuse cases in which investigative interviews were conducted from mid-September 1997 to 2000 after the implementation of the NICHD protocol, so that pre-NICHD protocol and NICHD protocol interview case outcomes could be compared.
All the forensic interviews included in the study were conducted at the Salt Lake County CJC by police detectives who specialized in conducting forensic interviews with children, and who in September 1997 were introduced to the NICHD protocol and were specially trained to conduct forensic interviews with children using the NICHD protocol. The same detectives conducted both the pre-NICHD protocol interviews and the NICHD protocol interviews.
All suspected victims of sexual abuse referred to the Salt Lake County Police Departments in Utah were considered for inclusion in the sample if the interviews had been conducted by one of the 11 participating experienced police officers in two police departments in Salt Lake County, Utah, between the years of 1994 and 2000 who had undergone training in the use of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Investigative Interview Protocol. The researchers excluded all cases of physical abuse and cases in which the alleged victims were witnesses rather than victims of sexual abuse, yielding an initial sample of 1,561 interviews. Of the sample of 1,561 interviews, 1,188 were cases involving an interview with only one child and a further 162 involved interviews with two or more potential victims, from which the victim for whom the most detailed and complete information concerning charges and outcomes was selected for that case. Of this sample of 1,350 cases, 70 cases were dropped because police outcome information was not available, yielding the final sample of 1,280 alleged child sexual abuse cases.
The sample of 1,280 alleged child sexual abuse cases includes investigative interviews that were conducted with children between the ages of 2.8 to 13.97 years. A total of 551 interviews were conducted between 1994 and mid-September 1997 before the NICHD protocol was implemented and 729 interviews were conducted from mid-September 1997 to 2000 after the implementation of the NICHD protocol.
All alleged child sexual abuse cases involving children between the ages of 2.80 and 13.97 that were interviewed in Salt Lake County, Utah, between 1994 and 2000.
alleged child sexual abuse case
Children's Justice Center database
Children's Justice Center intake forms
Child protection and police reports
administrative records data
The dataset contains a total of 116 variables pertaining to cases of suspected child abuse. The major categories of variables include demographic data on the suspected child victim and on the suspected perpetrator, on case characteristics, on case outcomes, and on time delays. Specifically, demographic variables include the age of the child at the time of the suspected abuse and at the time of the interview, the gender and race of both the child and the suspect, and the relation of the suspect to the child. Case characteristic variables include information on the type of abuse, the location of the abuse, and the type of charges filed. Case outcome variables include whether the case was dismissed or prosecuted, the number of charges that went to trial, the number and type of charges that were reduced through plea bargains, the percent of felonies and misdemeanors found guilty and not guilty, and the number of charges that were dismissed. Time delay variables include the time elapsed between the date of initial reporting or referral of the incident to the Salt Lake County Children's Justice Center (CJC) and the dates of forensic interviews, prosecutorial screenings, filing of charges by the District Attorney, arrest by law enforcement personnel, and case disposition.