Quality & Quantity

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 993–1011 | Cite as

Children between the age of 5 and 11: what “don’t know” answers tell us

  • Susanne VoglEmail author


Children are increasingly seen as competent informants on their activities, views and needs. Different abilities of children can lead to inadequate (formally or regarding the content) answers or to the misunderstanding of proceedings during an interview process. One inadequate or at least unintended (on the part of the researcher) response is a “don’t know” answer (DK). To study when and why DK answers occur, a possible cause for them in the cognitive process and their relation to age, we analysed the DK answers given in qualitative semi-structured interviews with children aged 5–11, conducted face-to-face and on the telephone. Each of 56 children was interviewed twice, once face-to-face and once via telephone. The results show that age had an effect on DK responses due to the cognitive state of the respondent and their communicative intent, but there was no difference in the number of DKs due to problems with the research instrument or due to an adequacy judgement in respect of respondent age.


Don’t know answers Cognition Children’s capacities Age effect 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Catholic University of Eichstaett-IngolstadtEichstaettGermany

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