We are planning to do research that involves a survey on sexual and reproductive health care including birth control. Can adolescents participate in this survey without parental consent?
– Senior Associate, Public Health Research Organization


The federal regulations require parental permission/consent for children to participate in research. The regulations define “children” as persons who have not attained the legal age for consent to treatments or procedures involved in the research, under the applicable law of the jurisdiction in which the research will be conducted (45 CFR 46.402(a)).

State laws on the legal age of consent to treatment can get complex; but, because your research involves a survey and not the administration of birth control or medical treatments, the research may be eligible for a waiver from the requirement for parental consent for research involving children.

The regulations allow an IRB to grant a waiver when the research presents no more than minimal risks to the participant and when certain additional conditions are met. Your submission to the IRB should include a request for a waiver along with the rationale for why parental permission is not a reasonable requirement. You should also describe the procedures you will put into place to protect the rights and welfare of the subjects. Specifically, in this kind of study, you should describe procedures you will put into place to protect the confidentiality of the collected data.