Source Monitoring in Child Forensic Interviews

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Source Monitoring in Child Forensic Interviews

Source Monitoring – A Crucial Aspect of Forensic Interviewing As It Relates To Children

Weise Law is a boutique criminal defense firm practicing in all of West Michigan. We have case experience in all criminal cases, with an emphasis on criminal sexual conduct charges. Perhaps the most important aspect of these types of cases is the forensic interview of the accuser by law enforcement. A crucial aspect of the forensic interview often is source monitoring as it relates to child forensic interviews. To learn more about this topic please check out our recent blog on our website,

How Do We Know What We Know?

The set of processes attributed to the origins of memories, knowledge, and beliefs is knowns as “source monitoring”. The question, “How do we know,  what we know?” is answered through source monitoring.

According to researchers, a study of preschool-aged children, where most children reported seeing an event, that they only heard about from another child, demonstrated that children’s interactions with one another was a significant influence on the false reports among children who only heard about the event, and had not witnessed or experienced the event themselves. In this given study children in group (a) participated in and witnessed an event, while children in group (b) did not witness  the event but heard about it from children in group (a). The number of children in group (b) that reported seeing this even was nearly the same as the children in group (a) who had experienced it.

Four Identified Reasons For Reporting, But Not Experiencing Events

There are four identified reasons that young children are vulnerable to repeating what they overhear but do not actually experience, when telling about events. First, younger children struggle to keep track of the source of their memories, this puts them at an increased risk for believing that events relayed to them by others are their own actual experiences. Second, children may be dependent on others to figure out how to represent and retell their experiences. Third, younger children do not understand that others may have memories that are false, rather they believe that the mind literally copies an experience and therefore everything is true. Lastly,  children do not experience what a false memory feels like.

Studies such as these clearly show the difference in “knowing about an event and having a “memory” of that event. At times children may know of an event and then talk as if they remember it. Children who are accurately reporting their own experiences can provide relevant details about their experiences. While, children who know of an event or have been given false information may also report experiencing the event, with rich details that make the narrative sound more believable.


Dr. Dan Swerdlow-Freed (2018) What is Source Monitoring and Why is it Relevant to Forensic Interviews of Children?

To learn even more about how the experienced defense lawyers at Weise Law can use this information to directly impact your case, call us at (616) 931-7030.

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