Affidavit of Ralph Underwager, Ph.D.|
Licensed Consulting Psychologist
(Sample: Deals with Motion for Videotaping all Contacts with child)
I, having been duly sworn upon oath and under penalty of perjury, depose
and state the following as true and accurate.
I have prepared this affidavit at the request of attorney --------------------
I. (Biographical data updated to provide basis for expertise and opinions.)
II. Mr. ---------- asked for my professional opinion on the advisability
and possible effects of videotaping all interviews of children in a specific
case where there is an accusation of child abuse. We have not yet been furnished
any documents about this specific case nor do we have any information about
the particulars of the case and the accusations against the parent. Therefore
my opinion is limited to the general issue of videotaping interviews.
My opinion is based on my training in psychology, my personal experience
in videotaping or audiotaping all evaluations and interviews I have done
with children, and my knowledge of the research literature and professional
literature relating to child abuse and within that body of knowledge material
relating to the issue of videotaping.
My personal experience with videotaping or audiotaping interviews of children
includes approximately a hundred children whom I have evaluated or conducted
therapy with in instances of alleged child abuse. Many of these instances
have been by court order. In the majority of those the court also ordered
that the sessions be videotaped. In my judgment only one child produced
any behavior that may suggest the act of videotaping the interview caused
any distress for the child. In this one instance the child appeared severely
neurotic and influenced by the mother to expect the interview to be difficult
and frightening so that it may well not have been the videotaping itself
that caused the child's difficulty. Even in this instance the child completed
the interview without needing to terminate it because of her stress response.
I have reviewed over 1000 hours of videotapes of interviews with children
from all over this country. These videotaped interviews have been done by
law enforcement personnel, child protection workers, social workers, psychiatrists,
and psychologists. The ages of the children have ranged from two to seventeen
years. Most of them have been under six. While adult behaviors in the interviews
are problematical because of their highly leading and coercive behaviors
toward the child, the act of videotaping itself does not appear to have
generated stress for the children nor to have unduly interfered with the
Research on interviewing using electronic recording equipment shows that
it does not interfere with the process of the interview. Persons, including
children, readily adapt to the presence of equipment and appear to forget
it is there. It is best if the equipment is relatively unobtrusive and that
no operator be present. This situation is easily created and an interview
can be managed by remaining within the range of a camera set up to cover
most of the interviewing area.
At least eleven states now have legislation mandating videotaping of initial
interviews of children when there is an accusation of child sexual abuse.
There has been no report of any trauma caused to children from the experience
of these states. The study of the experience in Texas from 1983 - 1987 is
typical (DeLipsey and James, 1988). There has been no difficulty experienced
because of the act of videotaping.
Undoubtedly, the most distressing problems were the use of leading and suggestive
questions and coercion to make the child confirm certain information. As
professionals, we were challenged to evaluate our own credibility. . . .Our
concern was that that these inappropriate interviewing techniques had been
employed for some time but were not exposed until the statute was passed.
We soon came to realize that the videotaped interview protected the rights
of the accused as well (p. 238).
Following a review of several hundred videotaped interviews Slicner and
Hanson (1989) describe as one of the many advantages of videotaping interviews
the subsequent critical review of the interview. They found a consistent
pattern of serious errors committed by numerous interviewers (p. 62).
Our own research involving scientific analysis of videotapes and audio tapes
from 38 cases around the country demonstrated the high level of adult behavior
toward children that is coercive, leading, and contaminates the information
gained from an interview (Wakefield & Underwager, 1988; Underwager and
Videotaping is done:
1) To protect the child from the harm generated by multiple interviews by
2) To maximize the reliability of the child's statements. Knowing that an
interview is being videotaped is likely to improve the performance of the
adults doing the interview.
3) To possibly submit the tapes as an exhibit to accused and defense attorneys
as well as prosecution. This may prevent unnecessary litigation and spare
a child the potentially negative consequences of involvement in lengthy
4) To show that the alleged victim has not been subjected to coercive adult
social influence that could shape a child into producing statements that
are inaccurate and represent a fabrication of an account elicited by the
5) To capture the demeanor of the parties to the interview and preserve
variables such as tone of voice, nonverbal behavior, pauses, gestures, and
other factors which may affect an interview but are lost unless there is
Videotaping or audiotaping an interview is necessary to assure accurate
reporting of the interview itself. Several research efforts have shown that
if there is no adequate and full documentation of an interview with a child,
the interviewers' reports of the interview are inaccurate and misleading.
Written accounts of an interviewer are not reliable (Herbert, Gram &
Goranson; 1987; White, 1986; Wakefield & Underwager, 1988; Underwager
& Wakefield, 1989; Raskin & Yuille, 1989).
The value and benefit of videotaping is not affected by whether or not the
material is used in the courtroom as evidence. The admissibility of videotaped
interviews is a separate question which is controversial and still being
argued through the courts. However, the benefit to the child of having full
and adequate documentation of interviews is not decreased if the material
is not admitted as evidence. If such material is admitted into the courtroom
the benefit to the child may be expanded but if it is not admitted the child
still benefits in all the ways described here.
In summary there is no evidence that videotaping or audiotaping an interview
is a negative experience for a child. There is substantial benefit to the
child from providing full and complete documentation of all adult interviews
with a child. There are no good reasons for not videotaping interviews with
children, only bad ones.
It is the general agreement within the scientific community that videotaping
all interviews with children is necessary to understand the adult behaviors
toward the child and to provide the most reliable information possible.
The general consensus document drafted recently by a world wide gathering
of professionals makes this very clear (Lamb, 1994)
I declare the foregoing is true and correct.
Further your affiant saith not.
Ralph C. Underwager, Ph.D.
Licensed Consulting Psychologist
DeLipsey, J. M. & James, S. K. (1988) Videotaping the Sexually Abused
Child; The Texas Experience 1983-1987. pp. 229-264. In Vulnerable Populations,
Ed. S. M. Sgroi. Lexington. D. C. Heath & Co.
Lamb, M. E. (1994). The investigation of child sexual abuse: An international,
interdisciplinary consensus statement. Family Law Quarterly, 28(1), 151-162.
Slicner, N. A. (1989) Guidelines for Videotape Interviews in Child Sexual
Abuse Cases, American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 7. pp. 61-74
Wakefield H. Z. & Underwager, R. C. (1988). Accusations of Child Sexual
Abuse. Springfield. C. C. Thomas
Underwager, R. C. & Wakefield, H. Z. (1989). (In Press) The Real World
of Child Interrogations. Springfield. C. C. Thomas.