How consent requirements may shape teen mental health research

April 6, 2017

How consent requirements may shape teen mental health research


Requiring teens to get permission from their parents to participate in studies about behavioral health may make it harder to understand adolescent psychology - especially when drugs and alcohol are involved - a recent study suggests.

That’s because teens are less likely to complete surveys if they have to seek permission to answer questions about risky or illegal behaviors, the study found. Plus, these studies may not include enough older adolescents, boys or black youth to accurately reflect what’s happening in these populations.

“The question is whether adolescents must be viewed as a vulnerable subgroup for whom parental consent is necessary to ensure appropriate protection, or whether requiring this additional layer of consent actually robs adolescents of opportunities to contribute to research as participants in certain circumstances,” said IHPI member Reshma Jagsi, an ethics researcher at U-M, who wasn’t involved in the study.

The answer is complicated, and age alone isn’t a very good way of determining whether teens have the capacity to make informed decisions about participating in research.

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