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Survey Development for Adolescents Aged 11–16 Years: A Developmental Science Based Guide


Methodological knowledge on surveying young adolescents is scarce and researchers often rely on theories and methodological studies based on adult respondents. However, young adolescents are in the process of developing their cognitive, psychological, emotional and social skills, therefore present a unique set of considerations. Question characteristics including; question type and format, question difficulty, wording, ambiguity, the number of response options, and the inclusion of a neutral mid-point, play a pivotal role in the response quality of young adolescents. Failure to address these factors is likely to encourage young adolescents to use satisficing techniques. In this article, we provide a science based guide for developing surveys for use with adolescents aged 11–16 years. The guide considers the characteristics and developmental stages of adolescents as survey responders and incorporates advice on appropriate question characteristics, survey layout and question sequence, approaches to pre-testing surveys and mode of survey administration. The guide provides recommendations for developmentally appropriate survey design to improve response quality in survey research with young adolescents.

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AO created the first draft of the article, and JWS, JS and NB provided substantive feedback on subsequent drafts. After several iterations where all authors contributed, all authors approved the final version of the article.

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Correspondence to Atefeh Omrani.

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Omrani, A., Wakefield-Scurr, J., Smith, J. et al. Survey Development for Adolescents Aged 11–16 Years: A Developmental Science Based Guide. Adolescent Res Rev 4, 329–340 (2019).

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  • Survey development
  • Adolescents
  • Satisficing
  • Respondent characteristic
  • Question characteristic