Despite growing evidence that participation in psychological trauma research is well tolerated by children and parents, ethics boards may voice concerns regarding research with families with recent acute trauma exposure. Factors impacting child and parent experiences of research participation are not well documented, particularly for methodologies including observational components.


This study describes child and parent perceptions of research participation involving an observational task following an acute traumatic event and explores potential relationships between research experience and selected demographic factors (race/ethnicity, sex, age, prior trauma exposure), and post-traumatic stress symptoms.


As part of a larger study on the role of biopsychosocial factors in post-traumatic stress symptoms, 96 child–parent dyads (ages 8–12 years, M = 10.6) participated in a three–time point study following hospitalization for pediatric injury. At baseline, children and parents completed measures of reactions to research participation, post-traumatic stress symptoms, and trauma history. Measures of post-traumatic stress symptoms were repeated at 6- and 12-week follow-up assessments.


The majority of families reported they were glad they participated in the research study (61% children; 72% parents) and felt good about helping others (74% children; 93% parents). Negative feelings were uncommon (< 10% of families). Perceptions of participation were not related to race, sex, or trauma history, but child age significantly factored into trust of the research team and informed consent (Spearman’s ρ = .289, p < .01). Reactions to research were not significantly related to child or parent post-traumatic stress symptoms at any time point.


Current results extend past research to suggest that most children’s and parents’ research experience is positive, even when completing an observational task during hospitalization for an injury. Children under the age of 10 years may perceive their participation as less voluntary, supporting prior findings that additional steps be taken to ensure their understanding of their choice in participation.

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Published in Research Ethics, v. 15, issue 3-4.

© The Author(s) 2019

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License (https://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).

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All articles in Research Ethics are published as open access. There are no submission charges and no Article Processing Charges as these are fully funded by institutions through Knowledge Unlatched, resulting in no direct charge to authors.