Quantitative Market Research with Children - what needs to be considered?

We are often asked what you need to keep in mind when interviewing children. Can a 6-year-old answer a questionnaire without the help of her parents? How should the children be addressed? Which questions and which wording are understood?

This is where we can help with our expert knowledge: We have been conducting market research with children for over 20 years and know the answers to these questions. Because children are not small adults, their questioning requires special consideration. Depending on their age, they are at different stages of development—emotionally, cognitively, and motorically. A 6-year-old and a 14-year-old have completely different abilities and developmental psychological requirements, which must be taken into account when designing the study. For this reason, we have developed special study designs and questionnaires for frequently recurring questions that are aimed at the different developmental stages of the children.

A clear definition and demarcation of the age groups at the beginning is essential. The children should neither be overwhelmed nor bored during the survey.

We start interviewing children at school age, i.e., at around 6 years of age. With younger children, it makes more sense to interview the parents. The children can be asked simple questions as part of these so-called tandem interviews, e.g., whether they like a product, but a more differentiated judgement cannot yet be expected at kindergarten age.

In this context, the length of the interview is also an important point. The younger the children are, the shorter they can concentrate; therefore, the interview must be correspondingly short. We calculate the length of the interview using the rule of thumb of approx. 2 minutes per year of a child's age.

Some important rules to follow when developing questionnaires for paediatric studies are:

  • Start by making the children feel comfortable - beause those who feel confident will also answer honestly. With introductions, e.g., that there are no right or wrong answers.
  • Age-appropriate formulation of questions - vocabulary is important: A primary school child has a different vocabulary to a teenager. This may require different versions of the questionnaire for different age groups.
  • Keep questions as short as possible - questions that are too long are often not understood.
  • Questions must be understood literally - without room for interpretation.
  • Direct address - no impersonal question formulations. 
  • Focus on "feelings" instead of purely cognitive content - "What do you like?" or "What would you like to have?".
  • Positive instead of negative formulations - the task of contradicting a negative statement is too complex for children.
  • Present-orientated - children have problems remembering the past.
  • Use of visualised scales - addressing with pictorial stimuli such as emojis increases understanding and motivation.
  • Use scales that are as standardised and short as possible - it is often difficult for children to choose between different options. For younger test subjects: 2-3 possible answers.
  • Visual and auditory aids - use pictures or videos to keep children's attention.
  • Fun self-completion with Surveytainment - Children usually have a high level of media literacy and love being able to interact with the computer or tablet. Images and other visualisations in particular can be used playfully in online programming.
  • Pay attention to fine motor skills in online questionnaires - question designs must be designed in such a way that even the youngest participants can cope with them.

Surveys with children can therefore only be successful and produce valid results if you recognise that children are children. They think very much in images, have pronounced intuition, creativity, and spontaneity, and experience their world "playfully."

In addition, of course, the legal limits must be observed. When recruiting children, we naturally adhere to the BVM and ESOMAR guidelines. This means that we always obtain the consent of the parent or guardian when interviewing children.

Are you planning a market research study with children?
Talk to us. We will be happy to advise you!

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