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The narrative coherence of witness transcripts in children on the autism spectrum

Henry, L. ORCID: 0000-0001-5422-4358, Crane, L., Fesser, E. , Harvey, A., Palmer, L. & Wilcock, R. (2019). The narrative coherence of witness transcripts in children on the autism spectrum. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 96, 103518. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2019.103518


Background and Aims. Autistic children often recall fewer details about witnessed events than typically developing children (of comparable age and ability), although the information they recall is generally no less accurate. Previous research has not examined the narrative coherence of such accounts, despite higher quality narratives potentially being perceived more favourably by criminal justice professionals and juries. This study compared the narrative coherence of witness transcripts produced by autistic and typically developing (TD) children (ages 6-11 years, IQs 70+).

Methods and Procedures. Secondary analysis was carried out on interview transcripts from a subset of 104 participants (autism=52, TD=52) who had taken part in a larger study of eyewitness skills in autistic and TD children. Groups were matched on chronological age, IQ and receptive language ability. Coding frameworks were adopted from existing narrative research, featuring elements of ‘story grammar’.

Outcomes and Results. Whilst fewer event details were reported by autistic children, there were no group differences in narrative coherence (number and diversity of ‘story grammar’ elements used), narrative length or semantic diversity.

Conclusions and Implications. These findings suggest that the narrative coherence of autistic children’s witness accounts is equivalent to TD peers of comparable age and ability.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2019 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Publisher Keywords: children, autism, eyewitness testimony, narrative coherence, story grammar
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

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