Research ethics

Children are a vulnerable group. We recommend that before you use NPC's Well-being Measure you take into account the ethical issues that arise in undertaking research with children and young people.

It is up to you to decide how you review your research. Here we outline the main principles of ethical research with children. More general principles of ethical research are covered in NPC's Research Ethics Framework.

Fully informed consent

It is not a legal requirement to ask for consent from parents for children to take part in the research. However, you may want to consider asking for consent from parents or give them the right to withdraw their children from the intervention and the evaluation.

If you work in a school, the school is 'in loco parentis', which means that you have a duty of care towards children under your supervision, measured as being that of a 'reasonable parent'. You may want to write to parents telling them about the project and why it is important.

The text below shows what you might ask if you want to seek consent form parents.

"We are doing some research to measure the well-being of the children we work with so that we can adapt and improve our services for children.

The survey we are using is designed to measure different aspects of children's well-being such as self-esteem, emotional well-being and friendships. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes for children to complete.

We are asking children to complete the questionnaire on ___ and again ___ weeks later (delete if not appropriate). We will not look at individual answers and any analysis of the results happens at a group level. You should also know that:

  • your child's answers are anonymous and confidential;
  • the data will be used for this research and no other purposes;
  • your child does not have to take part if he or she does not want to and your child can withdraw from the research at any time."

Voluntary participation

You should carefully explain the details of the intervention and evaluation to the children involved in a language appropriate to their age and understanding. You should inform them that they do not have to take part, can stop at any time and do not have to answer any questions the do not want to.

Anonymity and confidentiality

You should inform children or parents about the confidentiality and anonymity of the information they provide when asking for consent. The use of unique identification numbers means that personal information, including names, is always kept separately from any non-personal data, such as their responses to the well-being questions. You can read about the NPC Well-being Measure privacy policy.

It is important that children understand that there are 'limits to confidentiality'. If during the course of the evaluation a child is identified as being in immediate danger or at risk of significant harm, then steps need to be taken to protect the child. You should inform the child that this is happening. Also, before the start of the intervention procedures should be in place to deal with such a situation.

Avoidance of personal harm

You should avoid harm to research participants in all instances. For example, you should not put young people under pressure to fill in the questionnaire, or request that they do it at a stressful time.

Generally you should not give children monetary rewards as an incentive for completing the questionnaire. However, certificates and tokens (eg, for the school library) may be appropriate in some circumstances.