The Construction of Functional Identities in Forensic Interviews with Children
AdvisorPhilips, Susan U.
Waugh, Linda R.
Committee ChairPhilips, Susan U.
Waugh, Linda R.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis study focuses on the functional identities of legal witness, legal victim, and legal perpetrator and their co-construction in the forensic interviews that take place after allegations of child sexual abuse have been made. I argue that while these are inter-related identities, the focus of their constitution and the direction of their constructional dependencies is determined by the event context. Nineteen transcripts of forensic interviews involving children ages 3 to 12 were collected during a three-month period at a children's center in a western state.Legal witness as an identity of performance, is constituted in performance. Interview processes socialize children to these performances. Ritualized sequences within interviews also provide evidence that children have the qualities required of a legal witness. Children are constructed as legal victims in interview processes that establish they have been acted upon according to specific actions defined in the law. This mutually constitutes the legal perpetrator. Children, however, resist both interpellation as a legal victim and elements of the process of the interview affecting how they are perceived as legal witnesses. Analysis also reveals that the purpose of the interview within the extended legal process inherently shapes the accounts and narratives that are co-produced.The addition of a third interview participant is also considered. Second interviewers provided a complex co-construction process that can support the constitution of the legal witness identity. Relatives of the child also provide a complex process. If they are perceived as co-authoring the narratives or accounts, however, they may negatively affect the legal witness identity. The addition of an interpreter can facilitate the child's co-construction as a legal witness. As pre-trial events, forensic interviews are not subject to trial requirements for trained interpreters. In the case considered here, the untrained interpreter produced language that was less precise, more personal, and had the potential to affect the legal implication of questions.Finally, I discuss the therapeutic, theoretical, and the social, cultural, and political implications of the study.
Degree ProgramSecond Language Acquisition & Teaching