• Presentation

The Challenges of Conducting Child Assessments in a Home Environment with Lay Interviewers


Meehan, A., & Erickson, L. (2007, May). The Challenges of Conducting Child Assessments in a Home Environment with Lay Interviewers. Presented at International Field Directors and Technologies Conference, Santa Monica, CA.


Traditionally, trained professional administered child assessments in a controlled or clinical setting. Increasingly, the trend has shifted to assessing children in a home environment, with administration by lay interviewers without clinical backgrounds. The trend presents challenges to survey researchers, beginning with the design phase, when the selection of measures and administration methods impacts the timeline and costs. Moreover, there are important considerations in hiring and training interviewers to assess children in a home environment. For example, researchers hiring interviewers might weigh the importance of expertise in locating, gaining cooperation from, and interviewing respondents against the importance of expertise in administering standardized assessments. Surveys often require mastery of both child assessments and other important survey tasks, such as doorstep interactions, dealing effectively with household distractions, and interviewing parents, care providers, teachers, or other adults. The training program for large-scale field surveys involving direct child assessments can be quite intensive given the need to train and certify interviewers on a myriad of data collection protocols. Finally, during the implementation phase, there are important considerations in monitoring and evaluating the quality of the assessment data collected.Through our experience on several large-scale surveys of children and families, including the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW), the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study - Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), the Child and Family Well-Being Study (CFW), and the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey (LA FANS), RTI has developed and implemented strategies for designing child assessment data collection protocols for home environments; hiring and training lay interviewers to assess children; and monitoring the quality of the data collected. This presentation describes the training and implementation of these surveys, as well as lessons learned, and outlines important issues to consider during the design phase.