Objective: This study examined the effect of event repetition on the amount and nature of story grammar produced by children when recalling the event.
Method: Children aged 4 years (N = 50) and 7 years (N = 56) participated in either one or six occurrences of a highly similar event where details varied across the occurrences. Half the children in each age and event group recalled the last/single occurrence 5-6 days later and the other half recalling the last/single occurrence after 5-6 weeks (the final and single occurrence was the same). Children’s free recall responses were classified according to the number and proportion of story grammar elements (Stein & Glenn, 1979 - setting, initiating event, internal response, plan, attempt, direct consequence and resolution) as well as the prevalence of causal links between the individual story-grammar elements.
Results: More story grammar detail and more links between individual story grammar elements were reported about the final compared to single occurrence. The amount of story grammar increased with age and decreased over time. Further, an interaction was revealed such that the effect of retention interval on the production of story grammar was negligible for older children who experienced the repeated event.
Conclusions: Event repetition has a beneficial effect on the production of children’s story grammar content in situations where event details varied from occasion to occasion.
Practical Implications: This study highlights the importance of eliciting free recall when conducting evidential interviews with child witnesses about repeated events.
Feltis, B.B., Powell, M.B., & Roberts, K.P. (2011). The effect of event repetition on the production of story-grammar in children’s event narratives. Child Abuse & Neglect, 35(3), 180-187. DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu2010.11.004