High accuracy but low consistency in children’s long-term recall of a real-life stressful event
The accuracy and consistency of children’s memories of their removals from their biological families by the Child Protective Services (CPS) was investigated.
A researcher was present during the removals and documented what happened. A total of 37 maltreated children, aged 3 to 12 years, were interviewed 1 week and 3 months after the removals. The accuracy of the memory reports was high at both time points, but their consistency was fairly low; in all age groups (3–6, 7–10, and 11–12 years), a high percentage of new accurate information was reported during the second interview and a high percentage of the accurate information reported in the first interview was omitted in the second interview. Older children were significantly more consistent in their memory reports than younger children. The results show that low consistency in memory does not imply memory inaccuracy and has implications for the interpretation of successive interviews of children in forensic contexts.
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 2014, 126, 357–368, DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2014.05.009