Ethical Research Involving Children

Referring and reporting research participants at risk: Views from urban adolescents.

Fisher, C. B., Higgins-D’Alessandro, A., Rau, J.-M. B., Kuther, T. L., & Belanger, S. (1996). Referring and reporting research participants at risk: Views from urban adolescents. Child Development, 67(5), pp. 2086-2100.

Abstract: Researching developmental risks of urban youth raises ethical concerns when an investigator discovers a participant is in jeopardy. This study collected data on 147 seventh, ninth, and eleventh graders’ views of 3 investigator options: (1) taking no action and maintaining confidentiality, (2) reporting the problem to a concerned parent or adult, and (3) facilitating adolescent self-referrals. Participants judged these options within the context of 5 risk domains: substance abuse, child maltreatment, life-threatening behaviors, delinquency, and shyness. Judgments of reporting options were related to grade and ratings of risk severity, but not to moral reasoning. Confidentiality was viewed favorably for risk behaviors of low perceived severity or for which the consequences of adult discovery might introduce greater risk. Confidentiality was viewed unfavorably and reporting to adults favorably for child maltreatment and threats of suicide. Self-referral was viewed favorably across all grades and risk behaviors. Implications of adolescent perspectives for research ethics are discussed. (Abstract published by special arrangement with Wiley Subscription Services, Inc.).
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