Children or minors (ages 18 and under)

Basic principles in securing informed from children and minors requires particular attention to the following points:

  • their capacity to understand the the purpose and ideas behind the evaluation
  • their possible coercion by peers, parents/carers or others
  • possible conflicting interests of parents/carers and children (NHMRC, 2007)

Additionally, consider how the child or minor can opt in or opt out of the evaluation throughout its duration (Morris, Hegarty & Humphreys, 2012; NHMRC, 2007). In the case of a child this can be in the form of verbal or non-verbal cues (e.g. fidgeting, showing disinterest or becoming distressed) (NHMRC, 2007).

Consider some of the following points and if they apply:

  • Under normal circumstances, where a child is considered too young to give informed consent, the default is to secure informed consent from the parents or guardian of the child (AES, 2013).
  • Levels of maturity and therefore level of capacity for both children and minors to be involved in decision making around informed consent will vary. It is not possible to attach fixed ages to this - maturity and capacity to understand participating in the evaluation and what it involves will vary from child to child.
  • There is merit in advocating for childrens' right to consent however, where possible it should not by-pass the protection and advocacy of the parent.
  • Children and minors can still assent to participate - this means they have the right to agree or disagree with their parents decision. For example, a parent may consent to their child participating however seeking the childs assent is suitable if you notice they do not appear to agree with their parents decision (Morris, Hegarty & Humphreys, 2012).