The researchers of this study wanted to investigate whether a requirement for parental consent for a STI study had any effect on adolescent enrollment rates for the study. This is important as institutional requirement of parental consent may bias the sample of adolescents who agree to participate in clinical STI research studies.
Study participants were sexually active females ranging from the ages 14-21 years old who needed a pelvic exam with STI symptoms or risk factors. Enrolled participants completed a confidential interview and STI testing. During the interview, each participant was asked whether her parent/guardian was aware of her sexual activity, her STI testing today, and her participation in the research study. During the first 3 months of the study, consent was obtained from the adolescent and parental consent was obtained for those who were under 18 years of age. After the first 3 months the IRB granted a waiver of the requirement for parental consent, allowing subsequent consent from all adolescents aged 14 –21 years.
Previous research studies have shown that parental barriers accounted for a large number of adolescents refusing enrollment in research studies and results from this study supported these previous findings.
The results showed that:
- Removing the parental consent requirement increases enrollment rates in this population
- Even when adolescents report parental awareness of sexual behavior, requiring parental consent appears to decrease participation in STI research
- Regardless of parental consent, 100% of enrollees requested that STI test results be handled confidentially, confirming that privacy and autonomy are important to adolescent women
Reed, J.L. and J. S. Huppert. Predictors of Adolescent Participation in Sexually Transmitted Infection Research: Brief Report. 2008. Journal of Adolescent Health. 43:2. 195-197.