Obtaining Parent Permission

Obtaining Parent Permission

Research with minors requires both participant assent and parent permission. Parents (guardians or caregivers) must be informed about study activities through the parent/guardian permission form (download TC's Parental Permission Form Template). Parent permission is required, even if the minor assents to participate. While each study will have unique elements, researchers should strive for clarity and concise language in all of their research materials, regardless of the participants’ ages, educational backgrounds, or occupations. Every parent permission form must begin with a concise and focused presentation of the key information that is most likely to assist a prospective subject or legally authorized representative in understanding the reasons why one might or might not want to participate in the research. This part of the permission form must be organized and presented in a way that facilitates comprehension. The adage to researchers is, “prepare as if you are explaining your study to grandma or your kid brother.” The same adage applies to the parent permission form: parents who are able to understand the study will be more likely to allow their children to participate.

Common Elements in Parent Permission Forms

In order to ensure uniformity across Teachers College (TC) forms, every parent/guardian permission form should include the following points:

  • Affirm Understanding: We (the researchers) ask that you read this form and ask us any questions that you may have before allowing your child to participate in this study.
  • Study Activity Description: You (the parent, guardian, or caregiver) have the right to know what your child will be asked to do so that you can decide whether or not to include your child in the study.  
  • Voluntary: This study is voluntary. Your child does not have to be in the study if they do not want to.  
  • No Loss of Due Access: If your child does not want to continue to be in the study, they may stop at any time without penalty or loss of benefits to which they are otherwise entitled. Your child will not lose any access to the resources they are due (e.g., teacher instruction, learning materials) by choosing not to participate in this study. 
  • No Penalty for Nonparticipation: You (the parent, guardian, or caregiver) may refuse for your child to be in the study at any time without consequence. Your child will not be penalized in any way if you decide to not allow your child to participate or to withdraw your child from this study.
  • Confidential: We (the researchers) will do our best to make sure that your child’s personally identifiable information is confidential, and that information about your child is kept private. 
  • Answer Questions: We (the researchers) will do our best to answer your questions and provide you information before, during, and after the study.
  • New Information: We (the researchers) will inform you of any new information that may affect your decision as to whether or not to let your child participate in this research study. All guardians will be informed of any significant new findings discovered during the course of this study that might influence your child’s health, welfare, or willingness to continue participation in this study.

Writing for a General Audience

In addition to explaining their study to parents, researchers may also be asked to explain their study procedures to teachers, school administrators, or other adults who can grant researchers access to youth participants. Obtaining buy-in from these parties is vital to the success of recruitment efforts; caregivers and gatekeepers who are able to understand the researcher’s intent and the study activities will be more likely to consent to their child’s participation. Researchers new to writing for a general audience may have trouble rephrasing scientific or empirical jargon in a way that is easy for everyone to understand. The chart below is an example of the differences between technical language and general language used when explaining study procedures in a parent/guardian permission form. 

Technical LanguageGeneral Language
Your child may qualify to participate in this study because they meet the age and grade requirements. Your child may qualify to take part in this study because they are between the ages of 5 to 10 and are in elementary school.
If your child does not consent to participate in this study, there will be no penalty to their academic standing. If your child chooses not to be in this study, their choice will not impact their class grade.
This study will examine the effects of spatial model display patterns on fraction magnitude knowledge. This study will look at how your child understands and learns fractions.
If you consent to your child’s participation in this study, your child will converse with an interviewer about interventions such as monitoring and limit setting, disciplinary consequences, and incentives for prosocial behavior. If you agree to let your child be in this study, your child will talk to an interviewer about topics such as rules set by their caregivers, consequences for breaking rules, and rewards for good behavior.
All identifiers will be removed from the interview transcript in order to maintain confidentiality. Your child will be given a pseudonym or false name on the interview transcript in order to keep their identity confidential.

Fully Informing Parents & Guardians

The goal of the consenting process is that every individual recruited for a study understands what is asked of them. Individuals should be given the opportunity to ask questions and affirm their understanding of a study. Youth research participants may have limited cognitive abilities and shorter attention spans, making it difficult for them to fully understand research expectations and parameters. In order for an informed decision to occur, researchers may need help from the child's caregiver or teacher to ensure that every participant fully understands the breadth and depth of the study. If the guardian (parent or caregiver) agrees to have their child be part of the study, researchers should:

  • Explain procedures and tasks in lay terms
  • Identify any experimental procedures, study activity time, frequency, and duration 
  • Describe the benefits and risks associated with study activities
  • Clarify participation payment (if any)
  • Include any anticipated circumstances under which the subject’s participation may be terminated by the investigator without regard to the subject’s consent (e.g., the participant does not meet inclusion criteria)
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