Is Guardian Permission a Barrier to Online Sexual Health Research Among Adolescent Males Interested in Sex With Males?

J Sex Res. 2019 May-Jun;56(4-5):593-603. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2018.1481920. Epub 2018 Jun 28.


Institutional review boards (IRBs) that refuse to grant waivers of guardian permission may hinder research to inform needed online sexual health interventions for adolescent males interested in sex with males (AMSM). Information on the challenges of obtaining (or waiving) guardian permission is imperative. In June and July 2017, AMSM (N = 206; ages 14 to 17) in the United States completed an online survey on sexual behaviors, sexually explicit media use, and sexual education exposure/needs. A mixed-methods approach assessed attitudes toward guardian permission for the current survey and future online sexual health intervention research. Logistic regression models assessed differences by "outness" to a guardian. A framework matrix analysis was conducted to summarize, then aggregate, qualitative responses. Findings indicated that most AMSM would not participate if guardian permission was required (current: 83%; future: 87%). Youth who were not out were more likely to say they would not participate (current: adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 2.8, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.2 to 6.8); future: AOR = 4.7, 95% CI: 1.6 to 13.5). Participants reported that guardian permission would be an invasion of their privacy, lead to involuntary outing, and endanger participants. Overall, guardian permission appears to be a barrier to AMSM participation in online sexual health research. Investigators and IRBs should consider alternative practices and policies to facilitate such research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attitude*
  • Homosexuality, Male*
  • Humans
  • Legal Guardians* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Male
  • Privacy* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Research* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sexual Health*