Police officers’ use of emotional language during child sexual abuse investigations.

Gavin Oxburgh, Tom Williamson, James Ost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examined the use of emotional language by police officers who interview child victims and offenders during sexual offences investigations. It was hypothesised that officers who interviewed child victims prior to questioning the alleged offender would use more emotional utterances during offender interviews, than those who had not interviewed child victims. In addition, it was also hypothesised that the number of emotional utterances used would vary as a function of the gender of the interviewer and the type of offence (e.g. intra or extrafamilial abuse). Thirty-four interview transcripts of investigative interviews with alleged sex offenders were analysed and, contrary to the hypothesis, the results revealed a significant effect of prior acquaintance with the victim in that a greater number of negative emotional utterances (e.g. contempt, disgust and anger) were used by interviewers who had not previously interviewed the victim. There were no significant effects with regard to gender of the interviewer or the type of offence (e.g. extra, or intrafamilial abuse) and the study found that, despite recent recommendations, the majority of police officers had not received specialist investigative interviewing, specific to sex offenders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-45
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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