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Supervision mode effects in computerized delinquency surveys at school: Finnish replication of a Swiss experiment



This study provides a Finnish replication of a recent Swiss experiment (Walser and Killias: J Exp Criminol 8:17–28, 2012) on the supervision mode effects in computerized delinquency surveys in schools. This study supplements the Swiss study by using individual level randomization and two additional outcome variables: meta-questions of response integrity and incidence-counting heuristics.


A total of 924 ninth grade students (15–16 years old) in southern Finland were randomly assigned (at the level of individuals) to supervision either by their teachers or by an external research assistant. Students then responded to an online self-report delinquency survey. Chi-square and t tests were used to compare prevalence levels and means.


In both last year and lifetime recall periods, only one offence type (unspecified theft) showed significantly different outcomes, with external supervision yielding a higher prevalence figure. For other offences, no supervision effects were found. When females and males were separately examined, limited evidence of gender-specific supervision effects emerged. Thus, females appear to report more thefts in external supervision while males report more violence in teacher supervision. No statistically significant supervision effects were found in questions probing response integrity and counting heuristics.


Using teacher supervision in online self-report delinquency surveys does not appear to compromise the validity of the survey results. The findings thus largely corroborate the results of the earlier Swiss test. How supervision condition interacts with respondent characteristics apart from gender calls for further scrutiny.

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  1. The study by Lucia et al. (2007) compared computerized and paper-and-pencil responding, but the computer responding mode partially involved teacher supervision (Lucia et al. 2007: 47). The “no difference” finding is thus consistent with other studies.

  2. The corresponding Swedish self-report delinquency survey system also uses teachers as data collectors (see Ring 2010). For an overview of Nordic self-report delinquency surveys, see Kivivuori 2007.

  3. Randomization was based on the students’ own report about the day when they were born. This procedure means that there was no need to collect personal identification data on the respondents. In some classes, the randomization procedure (even/uneven date of birth) placed less than 5 students in the smaller group: in these classes, the students were allocated on the basis of whether their date of birth was at the beginning (days 1–15) or end (days 16–31) of month in order to avoid very small groups.

  4. Gender, age, years lived in the present locality, parental immigration status, family structure, family economic problems, personally available spending money, GPA for mathematics, English, and Finnish.

  5. With 34 item-wise comparisons in Tables 1 and 2, using a Bonferroni correction would require a p < .0015 threshold for the falsification of the null hypothesis.

  6. Downloading was excluded because its last year incidence question was differentially formulated.


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We thank researcher Mikko Aaltonen and senior research analyst Reino Sirén for their assistance in various phases of the research process.

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Correspondence to Janne Kivivuori.

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Kivivuori, J., Salmi, V. & Walser, S. Supervision mode effects in computerized delinquency surveys at school: Finnish replication of a Swiss experiment. J Exp Criminol 9, 91–107 (2013).

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  • Internet surveys
  • Research methods
  • School-based surveys
  • Self-reported juvenile delinquency
  • Finland
  • Switzerland