Young children’s responses to yes-no questions: Patterns and problems

Michael S. Brady, Debra A. Poole, Amye R. Warren, Heather R. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Concern about the accuracy of children’s responses to “yes-no” questions has created controversy regarding the appropriateness of these questions for forensic interviews. To evaluate response patterns, 56 children (3-7 years old) were twice asked a set of yes-no questions, either in standard or in a modified, forced-choice format, about a videotaped event. Younger children were less accurate and consistent than were older children. Unlike the older children, the younger children were less accurate on questions that adults rated asprobing central infonnation compared to those involving more peripheral details. Question format did not alter children’s accuracy, their tendency to answer “I don’t know, " or their consistency across repeated questions. No clear response biases were observed for the majority of children regardless of question format, and accuracy was equivalent on “yes-correct” and “no-correct” questions. Consistency and answers to suggestibility check questions were not predictive of performance. Because multiple mechanisms underlie errors on yes-no questions, the goal of postdicting the accuracy of children’s responses remains elusive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-57
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Developmental Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 1999


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