Interviewer-Respondent Interaction and Interactive Skills of Children aged 5 to 11 in Face-to-face and Telephone Interviews
Department of Sociology Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt Eichstaett, Germany
Researching children and seeing them as competent informants raises several methodological issues. We know very little about their cognitive, verbal and interactive skills in interview settings. To tackle problems of construing adequate research instruments and create encouraging settings for children (of different age groups) we need to take those skills into account. An interview setting is in most cases something totally new for children. At the same time it requires specific interactions and skills. Interactive skills depend on the experiences a person has. With age the experience in interactions grows and forms a framework for acting in new settings as well. A child gets gradually socialised into a society and learns about ritualised, expected and adequate interactions (in different contexts). Patterns evolve and are abstracted form specific settings and persons. This give the freedom to handle new situations with strangers, like interviews.
On the basis of qualitative semi-structured interviews conducted face-to-face and on the telephone the interactive abilities of children aged 5 to 11 were tested in the specific setting of an interview situation. They were then analysed employing quantitative and qualitative techniques. Each of the 56 German children was interviewed twice, once on the telephone and once face-to-face. Altogether 112 interviews resulted. All interactions occurring within the interviews were coded according to the Interaction Process Analysis (Bales, 1950). Interactions are distinguished between positive and negative social-emotional behaviour, questions and answers. This rich data was analysed regarding the interviewer-respondent behaviour and the interactive skills of children. Do the respective interactions fit? What are problems and where do they evolve? Is there a difference in interactional patterns and resulting problems regarding age, sex or mode? We found that all those factors have an impact and for a successful and for both satisfying interview they have to be taken into account while designing studies and questionnaires, setting up interviews situations.