Consent of children and young people

“Researchers should be attentive to the developmental level of children and young people when engaging them in understanding the nature and likely outcomes of research and when judging their capacity to consent to the research”. (NS 4.2.6)

The University of Sydney HREC prefers parent/carer consent be obtained for any research involving children and young people, particularly when the participant is still attending school.

If it is not intended to seek parent/carer consent please justify this approach in your application with reference to Chapter 4.2 of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research.

Children of all ages who are involved as research participants should be offered the option of assenting to the research, even if not at an age when they can legally consent to research. They may choose to decline to participate even if a parent or carer has provided consent.

Assent should not be confused with informed consent, or with autonomous decision making. Agreement can come without understanding. For example, a child can agree to a blood test but not understand the implications of the procedure. A 16-year-old who is judged as mature enough to meet legal and ethical tests of competence would be asked to consent, not assent.

You will need to provide a Parent/Carer Information Statement and Consent Form, and if considered necessary a Participant Information Statement in appropriate language for the child or young person being asked to participate.

To minimise paperwork, children and young people may consent/assent on the Parent/Carer Consent Form by inserting a space for the child/young person to sign. A separate Child/Young Person Consent Form can be provided if preferred.

Where a whole class or group is invited to participate, alternative supervision and activities for non-participating students needs to be considered. If a class is to be videotaped please explain how the filming of non-participating students will be avoided.