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Uncovering Adolescent Perceptions: Experiences Conducting Cognitive Interviews with Adolescents

Andrew Zukerberg and Jennifer Hess

KEY WORDS: Adolescents, Cognitive Interviews, Response Scales, Pretesting, Survey of Program Dynamics


The Census Bureau proposed extending one of the panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation to ten years in order to examine the impact of welfare reform on program participation, recipients, and their families. One component of this omnibus survey is to measure children's perceptions of their life chances and how (or whether) welfare reform affects these. These questions are included in a self-administered questionnaire for adolescents ages 12-17. Owing to concerns of question sensitivity, task difficulty, and the age appropriateness of selected questions, we conducted 20 cognitive thinkaloud interviews with adolescents. Adolescents provide new challenges for cognitive interviewing both in terms of their cognitive abilities and the quality of data they provide. Respondents were asked to answer a series of "life chances" questions using two different scales (percent chance ranging from 0 to 100, and a nine point scale ranging from "no chance" to "it will happen); and a series of questions measuring parent-child conflict using two different scales--one using vague quantifiers and the other with more definitive labels. This paper will review the literature on conducting cognitive interviews with adolescents, describe our experience, and present results from these two experimental components.

Citation: 1996, Proceedings of the Section on Survey Research Methods, Alexandria, VA: American Statistical Association, pp. 950-955.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010