American Sociological Association

Telephone Versus Face-to-Face Interviews: Mode Effect on Semistructured Interviews with Children

Usually, semistructured interviews are conducted face-to-face, and because of the importance of personal contact in qualitative interviews, telephone interviews are often discounted. Missing visual communication can make a telephone conversation appear less personal and more anonymous but can also help prevent some distortions and place the power imbalance between adult interviewer and (child) respondent into perspective.

In this article telephone and face-to-face interviews are compared in order to analyse the general applicability of telephone interviews and their peculiarities when researching children. The data consists of 112 semistructured interviews with 56 children aged 5, 7, 9 and 11, conducted in Germany. Each child was interviewed twice; once on the telephone and once face-to-face. By triangulating qualitative and quantitative analytical steps, both interview modes are compared from a number of perspectives. The results showed very little difference between the two modes of interview and therefore challenge the reluctance to conduct semistructured telephone interviews, both in qualitative research and with children. Dependent on the research question, relevant distinctions could be the lower interviewer involvement, the lower number of opinions and suggestions stated by respondents and fewer signs of tension and tension release in telephone interviews.


Susanne Vogl





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