Children's understanding of their research rights before and after debriefing: informed assent, confidentiality, and stopping participation

Child Dev. 2002 Jan-Feb;73(1):132-43. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00396.


This study explored children's understanding of their research rights in the context of an investigation of how children cope with peer provocation. Participants were 178 children (97 girls and 81 boys) who had finished the second, fourth, and sixth grades (average ages: 8, 10, and 12, respectively). After children agreed to take part in research on "how kids get along together," as well as after debriefing, their perceptions of free assent, their understanding of what they would be doing and why, their belief in voluntary participation and freedom to withdraw, and their comprehension of confidentiality were assessed. The vast majority of participants gave assent freely and reported no undue pressure from their families or the experimenters to participate. Older children knew before participating in the research what their participation would involve, comprehended confidentiality, and understood the study's purpose after their participation, but second graders were less likely to understand these issues than fourth and sixth graders were. Following debriefing, children's understanding of their research rights was largely unchanged; most children still had difficulty describing the research goals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Behavioral Research / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Child
  • Comprehension*
  • Concept Formation
  • Confidentiality / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Dominance-Subordination
  • Ethics, Research*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Legal Guardians
  • Male
  • Peer Group*
  • Play and Playthings
  • Social Behavior*