During the breakout session on Surveying Children at the 2006 CMOR Respondent Cooperation Workshop, I presented results from a recent study the Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted to test the feasibility of giving all household members an individual diary to record their spending and discussed the issues associated with including children and teenagers in the data collection process.

Many surveys ask for one person to report household level information. In houses with teenagers, this may cause significant issues. For a wide variety of topics, parents may not be informed about their teenager's behaviors. Even the most conscientious respondents cannot provide accurate data in these cases, as they simply do not know the answers. The Consumer Expenditure (CE) Survey recently completed a study to determine if having all household members complete a weekly expenditure diary improves reporting. CE hypothesized that expenditures may be missing because the respondent completing the diary, often a parent, does not know what their children spend. By giving each household member, including all teenagers, a diary, CE hoped to improve data quality and completeness.

Several attendees asked questions about the presentation, pointing out that even with individual diaries; teenage respondents may not be recording all their purchases because of concern that their parents may see them.

Following the presentation, the discussion focused on surveying children. A participant from Phillip Morris asked the group how they handled getting parents to allow their children to participate, as she experienced reluctance from parents. Most participants agreed that asking the parents a few questions first, to establish rapport, before asking for child cooperation helped. One said that his company allowed parents the option of listening to the interview on another phone line, and had not experienced issues with children being reluctant to answer questions with their parents listening.

Another question was about recruiting children. Some of the methods the group named were mall-intercepts, river sampling, online panels, and recruiting through schools.  No single method was identified as being superior to the others, and all many participants said they used multiple methods.

Parental permission was also discussed. One participant pointed out that COPPA said that parental consent was required for any children under 12, but most people said they got it from all children under 18. One challenge noted was for mall-intercepts, where parents often were not with the children. A few participants said they would interview the children anyway.

Incentives for child respondents received mixed reactions. Some companies did not give cash incentives directly to children, as they had negative reactions from parents in the past. Others gave children points they could redeem online, or small cash incentives. One said that her company gives both the child and the parent an incentive, as the parent’s time is often required to get the child to the interview.

Additional topics briefly discussed were the concern about weaknesses of children’s memories, the age appropriate to talk to children, and materials to train interviewers how to interview children.