At what price? The current state of subject payment in adolescent research

J Adolesc Health. 2003 Nov;33(5):378-84. doi: 10.1016/s1054-139x(03)00228-3.


Purpose: To examine how subject payment was associated with study features, such as investigator characteristics and project specifics, among randomly selected studies using adolescent subjects.

Methods: Using Psychinfo we gathered a list of original research studies published in 1999 that used adolescent subjects. We randomly selected corresponding authors and mailed confidential questionnaires on subject payment. We gathered complete data from 127 authors of adolescent research. While our main outcome was subject payment, we also examined the monetary value and form of the payment. Predictor variables included the principal investigator's demographics and professional information and the project's design and sample. Data were analyzed using Student's t-tests, Pearson correlations, and logistic regression.

Results: Of the studies using adolescent subjects, 55% (n=61) involved payment. Total payment varied (range $1 to $600, mean=$82.35) and the mean value per session was $26.61. Investigator characteristics associated with payment were a principal investigator's current discipline area and the decade, level and area of highest educational degree obtained. Funding and protocol complexity were related to payment, as was the sample's size, gender composition, ethnic makeup, SES distribution, and at-risk status. Logistic regression analyses found that researchers using payment were 7.2 times more likely to have funding, 2.8 times more likely to work with at-risk youth, and for every unit increase in positive attitude toward compensation, there was a 1.1-fold increase in the likelihood of using payment.

Conclusions: Of those who responded to our questionnaire, slightly more than one-half the 1999 published studies done with adolescents used payment; however, the amount paid varied tremendously.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Medicine / ethics*
  • Benchmarking
  • Compensation and Redress / ethics*
  • Ethnicity / psychology
  • Female
  • Human Experimentation / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Patient Selection
  • Research Personnel / classification
  • Research Subjects / classification
  • Research Subjects / economics*
  • Research Subjects / psychology
  • Social Class
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vulnerable Populations / psychology