Youth Services Law

Questioning Children: A New Study

A recent study adds more support to the evidence that asking children open-ended questions is the best way to obtain the information that they have. Researchers studied 83 children in Australia, from ages 7-12. They showed the children a short film, and then interviewed them twice, once by a person who asked only open questions and once by a person who asked only closed questions. A third interviewer then asked the children their thoughts about the interviews using a 10-point rating scale.

The study noted earlier evidence that closed questions, especially yes-no or multiple choice, prompt children to guess at the “correct” answer. Closed questions also can signal the child what information the interviewer is seeking.

The focus of this latest study was the children’s views of the different questioning techniques. Although the results were varied on which technique the children preferred, most of the children agreed that the open questions elicited more information and left the children feeling more that they had been heard rather than ignored. The open-ended interviews also elicited more than 3 times the information received in the closed interviews, and the responses were significantly more accurate.

This study is consistent with the findings of previous studies — if you want more and better information from children, ask open-ended questions instead of yes-no or multiple-choice options.

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