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Behavior and Social Issues

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 1–17 | Cite as

Accuracy of Disclosure and Contextual Control in Child Abuse: Developing Procedures within the Stimulus Equivalence Paradigm

  • Michael KeenanEmail author
  • Attracta McGlinchey
  • Christina Fairhurst
  • Karola Dillenburger
Article

Abstract

Lack of reliable, nonintrusive disclosure techniques remains an obstacle in child abuse investigations. Stimulus equivalence procedures have been used to detect a range of social experiences. This paper explores the role that contextual cues play in the development of these procedures. Eight 6–9-year-olds were exposed to verifiable social experiences and then trained to respond differentially to two arbitrary stimuli. Phases 1–3 of the experiment began with a role-play in the laboratory. In Phase 1, the role-play was followed by conditional discrimination training; selecting arbitrary stimulus (*) in the presence of pictures depicting unusual activities in the role-play was reinforced, while selecting arbitrary stimulus (!) in the presence of other role-play stimuli was reinforced. In Phase 2, the role-play was followed by a testing procedure. In Phase 3, the two arbitrary stimuli were established as contextual cues. Following the role-play, accurate disclosure was reinforced in the presence of (*), while inaccurate disclosure was reinforced in the presence of (!). In Phase 4, a prearranged role-play took place at each child’s home. Using the arbitrary stimuli as contextual cues, children were tested for accurate and inaccurate verbal accounts. All subjects achieved 100% correct responses in Phases 1–3. Four of the 8 subjects scored 100% in Phase 4, whereas the remaining subjects scored between 67% and 94%. Findings are discussed in the context of child abuse.

Key words

children’s disclosure contextual control stimulus equivalence verbalnonverbal correspondence child abuse 

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Copyright information

© Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Keenan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Attracta McGlinchey
    • 1
  • Christina Fairhurst
    • 1
  • Karola Dillenburger
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Psychology and CommunicationUniversity of UlsterColeraineN. Ireland
  2. 2.The Queen’s University of BelfastUnited Kingdom

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