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Direct mixed and open questions in child interviewing: An analog study


  • Associate Professor Steven W. Horowitz

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut, USA
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Correspondence should be addressed to Associate Professor Steven W. Horowitz, Department of Psychology, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, CT 06050, USA (e-mail:


Purpose. This study evaluated the relative value of direct questions, open-ended questions, and mixed questions (including cued invitations) in eliciting accurate statements from young children about a known episode.

Methods. Children, 25 aged 5–7 years, and 25 aged 10–12 years, were interviewed concerning a standardized experience the previous week. Direct, mixed, and open-ended question sequences were counterbalanced between participants. Transcribed videos were assessed for quantity and quality of statements.

Results. Mixed questions tended to fall in the middle, between direct and open questions on length of statement, and number of errors. For the younger children, direct questions, but not mixed questions, increased the number of errors of commission in subsequent open question sequences. Cued invitations, where the direct portion of the mixed question pair reiterated information previously elicited from the child, produced fewer errors of omission than mixed questions without adding errors of commission.

Conclusions. Mixed questions, especially cued invitations, were found to be a useful alternative for obtaining specific content when open questions alone were not sufficient. Support for conducting the interview in an ‘inverted pyramid’ or ‘funnel’ fashion was found in an analog study where ground truth was firmly established.