Background: Genomic sequencing of children in research raises complex ethical issues. This study aims to gain more knowledge on the attitudes towards the inclusion of children as research subjects in genomic research and towards the disclosure of pertinent and incidental findings to the parents and the child.
Methods: Qualitative data were collected from interviews with a wide range of informants: experts engaged in genomic research, clinical geneticists, persons with mental disorders, relatives, and blood donors. Quantitative data were collected from a cross-sectional web-based survey among 1227 parents and 1406 non-parents who were potential stakeholders in psychiatric genomic research.
Results: Participants generally expressed positive views on children's participation in genomic research. The informants in the qualitative interviews highlighted the age of the child as a critical aspect when disclosing genetic information. Other important aspects were the child's right to an autonomous choice, the emotional burden of knowing imposed on both the child and the parents, and the possibility of receiving beneficial clinical information regarding the future health of the child. Nevertheless, there was no consensus whether the parent or the child should receive the findings. A majority of survey stakeholders agreed that children should be able to participate in genomic research. The majority agreed that both pertinent and incidental findings should be returned to the parents and to the child when of legal age. Having children does not affect the stakeholder's attitudes towards the inclusion of children as research subjects in genomic research.
Conclusion: Our findings illustrate that both the child's right to autonomy and the parents' interest to be informed are important factors that are found valuable by the participants. In future guidelines governing children as subjects in genomic research, it would thus be essential to incorporate the child's right to an open future, including the right to receive information on adult-onset genetic disorders.
Keywords: Attitude; Child; Ethics research; Mental disorders; Minors; Whole genome sequencing.