Conducting a qualitative child interview: methodological considerations


Riitta-Liisa Kortesluoma,
Learning and Research Services,
PO Box 7910,
University of Oulu,


Background. Studies of children have a long history, but the literature related to young children consists for the most part of studies on rather than with children and taking little account of what is regarded as significant and meaningful by children themselves. Researchers have relied almost exclusively on adults when collecting data about children's thoughts, feelings and experiences. Interviewing children, however, gives an opportunity to gain information about their subjective experiences.

Aim. The purpose of this article is to illustrate the theoretical premises of child interviewing, as well as to describe some practical methodological solutions used during interviews. Factors that influence data gathered from children and strategies for taking these factors into consideration during the interview are also described.

Method. This paper is based on literature and the experience of one of the authors in interviewing children aged from 4 to 11 years about their experiences of pain.

Findings and conclusion. A consideration of literature dealing with the principles of child interviewing shows that there is surprisingly little guidance available on conversational methods involving children. The empirical and conceptual foundation for child interviewing is not very clear. Novice researchers especially may need recommendations about how to conduct a qualitative child interview. The method must suit both the purpose and the context.