A comparison of Likert scale and visual analogue scales as response options in children's questionnaires

Acta Paediatr. 2004 Jun;93(6):830-5. doi: 10.1080/08035250410026572.


Aim: To examine which response options children prefer and which they find easiest to use, and to study the relative reliability of the different response options.

Methods: A consecutive group of unselected children (n = 120) filled out three questionnaires in a paediatric outpatient clinic. Each questionnaire included seven similar questions, but had different response options: the Likert scale, the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) and the numeric VAS. In general, the questions were not related to the children's particular diseases, but dealt with the frequency of simple activities, their feelings and opinions. The pages with the three different response options were offered in random order. Afterwards, the children rated their preference and ease of use of the different response options on a scale from one to 10.

Results: Children preferred the Likert scale (median mark 9.0) over the numeric VAS (median mark 8.0) and the simple VAS (median 6.0). They considered the Likert scale easiest to fill out (median mark 10 vs 9 and 7.5 for the numeric and simple VAS, respectively). Results of the different response options correlated strongly with each other (rho = 0.67-0.90, p < 0.05).

Conclusion: Children prefer the Likert scale over the numeric and simple VAS and find it easiest to complete. The Likert scale, the simple VAS and the numeric VAS are of comparable reliability. The Likert scale is recommended for use in questionnaires for children, although research into larger and more diverse samples is needed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain Measurement*
  • Psychometrics
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*