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Children’s Abilities to Date Events

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2020
2 pages

Since a forensic interviewer on a multidisciplinary team (MDT) in an alleged child abuse case will often seek information from a child about when a particular abusive event occurred, it is important for interviewers to be informed about research on children’s ability to remember events in their lives and how a child’s memory of the timing of events in their lives can be facilitated.


Research has shown that a child’s ability to understand time (when events occurred) is not straightforward, and asking direct questions about when an event occurred or how many times, may result in inaccurate and confusing responses from a child. When an interviewer understands the challenges of asking about time and maximizing memory recall through appropriate questions, it is possible to assist a child’s attempts to date an event. There are important reasons for a forensic interviewer to ask a child to date events; however, the process must be cautious and involve a number of sources of information related to the alleged offender, what happened, and the location. Suggestions are offered in this paper for types of questions a child might be able to answer that may relate to determining the time frame when an event occurred in a child’s life.

Date Published: May 1, 2020