Over the past decades Western-European societies have become increasingly
culturally diverse. In this article we discuss two issues that arise when conducting
criminological research in diverse contexts, namely threats to study validity because
of ethnic differences in participation rates and because of lacking cross-cultural
equivalence of questionnaires in multi-language contexts. We demonstrate show how
these problems were handled in the z-proso study, a prospective longitudinal
criminological involving 1240 families in Zurich, Switzerland. Over 50% of the
children’s parents are first-generation immigrants meaning that parent interviews had
to be carried out in ten different languages.
First, we present the translation process that lead to a multi-language questionnaire,
then we describe how parents were contacted and recruited into the study. Finally, we
show how a multimethod data collection strategy can help identifying gaps in crosscultural
equivalence of the instruments.
Results suggest that recruitment efforts could significantly increase participation
rates, particularly amongst minority members. As expected, higher participation rates
are associated with a qualitative improvement of the sample: Parents who needed to
be personally motivated to participate tend to have children with higher rates of
problem behaviour than parents who participated spontaneously. Highest rates of
problem behaviour were found for those children whose parents did not participate.
Results further indicate that given the German skills of many migrants, most of them
could not have been interviewed if the questionnaires would not have been translated.
Finally, the multimethod analysis reveals significant discrepancies in parent versus
teacher and interviewer rating of child problem behaviour amongst migrant parents.
Closer scrutiny indicates that such differences are likely to be a result of socially
desirable answer behaviour among low-education parents.