Children's capacity to agree to psychological research: Knowledge of risks and benefits and voluntariness

Ethics and Behavior 5 (1):25 – 48 (1995)
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Abstract

A series of studies investigated the capacity of children between the ages of 7 and 12 to give free and informed consent to participation in psychological research. Children were reasonably accurate in describing the purpose of studies, but many did not understand the possible benefits or especially the possible risks of participating. In several studies children's consent was not affected by the knowledge that their parents had given their permission or by the parents saying that they would not be upset if the children refused. In contrast, other studies found that children were much more likely to stop their participation if the experimenter said explicitly that she would not be upset if they stopped. We suggest that experimenters should pay more attention to describing the possible risks and benefits of participation in research, and that they should also make it clearer to children that they are free to stop once they have begun.

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