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Parent and Adolescent Perceived Need for Parental Consent Involving Research With Minors

Anju Sikand, MD; Howard Schubiner, MD; Pippa M. Simpson, PhD
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151(6):603-607. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1997.02170430069014.
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Objective:  To assess parents' and adolescents' perceived need for parental consent for minor adolescents to participate in minimal risk research studies based on procedural invasiveness (anonymous surveys, interviews, and blood or urine testing) and sensitivity of the topics (sexuality, drug and alcohol use, and sexually transmitted diseases and human immunodeficiency virus [HIV]).

Methods:  An anonymous self-report questionnaire was administered to 100 adolescent-parent pairs at 2 clinical sites (urban and suburban) of Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit.

Results:  By invasiveness of the research procedure, the proportions of parents and adolescents who perceived a need for parental consent were as follows: face-to-face interviews, 62% vs 48%; telephone interviews, 72% vs 46%; blood or urine testing, 77% vs 62%; and blood testing for HIV status, 78% vs 59%. These differences were only significant for telephone interviews and HIV blood testing. For anonymous surveys, a minority of parents (33%) and adolescents (26%) reported that parental consent was needed. Based on sensitivity of the research topics, the proportions of parents and adolescents who perceived a need for parental consent were as follows: sexuality, 60% vs 34%; drug and alcohol use, 56% vs 44%; contraception, 62% vs 46%; and sexually transmitted diseases and HIV testing, 56% vs 52%. These differences were only significant for sexuality. Parents with higher education believed that teens could give their own consent (P<.05). Fifty-seven percent of parents and their teens agreed that parental consent for anonymous surveys was not necessary. For more invasive procedures and more sensitive topics, the percentage of disagreement ranged from 28% to 55.5%.

Conclusions:  There is a greater perceived need for parental consent to adolescent participation in research studies among parents than among teens for more invasive procedures and more sensitive topics. These results suggest the need for sensitivity to differing adolescent and parental perceived need for parental consent for a minor adolescent to participate in such studies. Further studies with larger samples are needed to determine what factors influence diverse parent and adolescent opinions.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151:603-607

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