Advances in Questionnaire Design for Youth (303590)*Ann M. Arthur, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Leslie Hawley, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Michelle Howell Smith, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Natalie Koziol, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Andrew White, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Keywords: questionnaire design, youth, child, data quality
The survey response process is a function of respondents’ abilities in the cognitive, language, and social domains. These abilities are not fully formed in children and adolescents. Although children and youth are being surveyed more frequently, recommendations for surveying youth are sparse.
This paper first summarizes cognitive, language/reading, and social development from the ages of 6 to adulthood. These domains represent the foundational structures necessary for youth to comprehend questions, retrieve information, evaluate the recalled information, and select response options that most closely match their answers. For each domain, the abilities and challenges that are important to the survey response process are highlighted. Because abilities in the three domains do not develop at the same pace, implications for questionnaire design for youth are discussed.
Next, a set of 16 recommendations for developmentally appropriate instrument design are presented for youth in grades 4--12 (approximately ages 9--18). Grounded in the survey research and methodology literature and informed by the developmental literature, these recommendations minimize respondent burden and breakdowns in the survey response process.
Finally, results from cognitive interviews are presented to both support for the guidelines and illustrate continued challenges in questionnaire design. The cognitive interviews provide valuable insights about vocabulary, task difficulty, the length of reference periods, the number of response categories, response scales, and more.
This research summarizes the lessons learned in designing and adapting questionnaires for a young population. This paper offers researchers specific recommendations when designing questionnaires for today’s youth as well as strategies based on cognitive interviews with a large and diverse sample of youth.