Objective: Schools increasingly require researchers to obtain active parental consent for students to participate in health research. We sought to identify effective strategies for the recruitment of child research participants through schools.
Method: A search of Medline, PsycINFO, Educational Resources Information Center, ProQuest 5000 and the Cochrane Library electronic databases was conducted for the period 1988 to 2008.
Results: The review found evidence that the following strategies may be effective in enhancing participation rates: 1) promotion of the research to school principals, teachers, parents and students; 2) dissemination of study information using methods allowing direct contact with parents (i.e. telephone or face-to-face); 3) provision of incentives to teachers, students and at a class level; 4) making reminder contacts; and 5) having a member of the research team co-ordinate and closely monitor the recruitment process.
Conclusion and implications: Application of these strategies should reduce the risk of non-response and other biases that result from selective non-participation. Further randomised controlled trials of these and other strategies are required to strengthen the evidence base.