Interviews with children: An experimental comparison of methods

Merriman, Brian
Child-adult interviews are a prominent mode of research and practice in psychology. There is a considerable knowledge-base in forensic interviewing but less is known about interviews in other settings. The aim of the present study was to compare child-adult interview methods. In a mixed-methods design, exploratory phases used qualitative interviews with practitioners to establish the context of practice. The main issues in the interviews were the importance of rapport-building in the first meeting with a child, variation in approach depending on the child's age, and the potential value of non-verbal methods. The main phase tested differences between standard verbal interviews, drawing interviews, and photo elicitation interviews in the areas of duration, communication, rapport, and interviewer style. Parallel data collection phases were conducted in schools and in applied settings. In 23 schools there were 120 participants, fifty-six 7- to 9-year olds (32 girls; mean age = 8.41 years, SD = 0.45) and sixty-four 12- to 14-year-olds (27 girls; mean age = 13.58, SD = 0.53). In the applied setting, 31 practitioners conducted interviews in 20 services with 61 participants (25 girls; mean age = 11.11, SD = 2.81). In the school-based phase, drawing and photo interviews were longer than verbal interviews for younger children and were associated with a supportive interview style; verbal interviews appeared to act as a relative impediment. No condition differences were observed for the older age group in duration or interviewer style. For both age groups, drawing interviews were also most productive with respect to the amount of new information generated, and interviews with older children were more productive than younger. A number of measures of rapport gave inconclusive results with high levels of rapport in all conditions for both age groups. In the applied phase, patterns of results were broadly similar. Analysis of individual differences among practitioners was also possible in the applied setting and revealed considerable variation in interviewer style. Implications are considered for research and practice with children, with specific recommendations on methods for younger children and on interviewer training. The methodological issues in the study, in particular the sampling in the applied setting, form the basis for recommendations on a programme of research in child-adult interviews.
Publisher DOI
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Ireland