NICHD-Protocol Investigations of Individuals With Intellectual Disability: A Descriptive Analysis

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Abstract

The current study followed investigative interviews with individuals with mild and moderate intellectual disability (ID) and observed both the types of prompts addressed to them and the nature of their responses. The sample comprised 200 alleged victims, in 4 equal and matched groups: individuals with mild ID and their mental-age (MA) matches, and individuals with moderate ID and their MA matches. All alleged victims were interviewed by trained investigators who followed the protocol of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, known to promote developmentally sensitive interviews. A descriptive analysis revealed that individuals with ID were faced with a substantial number of prompts, with recall prompts dominating the interviews. They replied to almost all prompts, addressed substantive issues following over 2/3 of the prompts, and provided new details following 1/3 of the prompts, but they tended to respond at lower rates than did their counterparts. The number of details was generally lower among individuals with ID. However, all but the moderate ID group produced more details following recall than recognition prompts. Performance varied according to the severity of ID, with the mild ID group outperforming the moderate ID group. The findings challenge the notion that individuals with ID cannot participate in criminal investigations or act as witnesses. The data suggest that when abuse is suspected, awareness of their weakness and strengths is likely to promote informed and effective interviewing, which may yield valuable forensic evidence.

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