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04-20 Parental consent laws in US may influence studies on adolescent mental health

Parental consent laws in US may influence studies on adolescent mental health

Various researches are being conducted worldwide to understand the causes and effects of various mental health problems. However, there is a probability that researches carried out on adolescents might not be able to get the correct picture of the situation because adolescents usually tend to seek their parents’ permission for participating in studies concerning behavioral health issues. This, in turn, can make it difficult to interpret the adolescent mind, especially when it comes to abusing substances, including drugs and alcohol.

A recent study, titled “The Effects of Requiring Parental Consent for Research on Adolescents’ Risk Behaviors: A Meta-analysis,” suggested how scientists might get confused by teen participants’ answers in a survey, especially concerning risky or illicit behaviors if they need prior approval from their parents. The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in March 2017, also informed that the credibility of the results obtained might go down due to non-inclusion of teenage boys or black youth belonging to the upper age bracket.

It is mandatory for American teenagers aged under 18 years to gain permission from their parents before participating in any research or seeking medical treatment. The nature of permission can be either active, with parents freely allowing their wards to join studies, or passive, when youth participants would be allowed to answer but not in cases where parents decide to opt out. Most studies use the active consent as opposed to the passive one.

The researchers evaluated details from 15 previous studies that examined 104,074 children to observe how consent policies affected the participants and the nature of their responses to questions concerning their hazardous or illicit behaviors.

The researchers observed how active consent increased the likelihood of participation. Though white students showed greater eagerness to respond to questions compared to the Hispanic youth, the difference observed was minimal. Black students were also keen to be a part of the studies, albeit with the nature of consent being more passive than active. The researchers found that passive content made teenagers more likely to report about their indulgence in drugs or alcohol.

Elaborating on how the nature of consent influenced teenagers’ responses when asked about their addictive habits, Dr. Jill Beck, a researcher at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, wrote, “Teens may not want their parent to know about behaviors, specifically risky behaviors, for fear of getting in trouble. Requiring parental consent may influence some teens to either not participate in a study at all or give false information.”

Considering teenagers’ susceptibility levels

The researchers lamented that too few studies were considered while assessing the influence of consent on teenagers’ responses. The laws concerning parental consent outside America might be different from what the nation practices, thus, raising the likelihood of differing results for the same kind of research. It is necessary to understand how seeking parental consent for participation in a study could lead to certain parts of the population being left out during the research.

Treatment for mental problems is available

At times, adolescents and teens suffering from an addiction or behavioral disorder might not be able to seek help due to parental pressure. The fear of backlash against their wards forces guardians to internalize their problems instead of looking for expert advice. Both the patient and the family members must realize that warning signs of behavioral disorders stem from underlying medical conditions or substance use habit.

Though the importance of parental consent cannot be underestimated, physicians must realize how adolescents are more susceptible to substance abuse, thus, increasing their likelihood of suffering from co-occurring mental illnesses and addictive habits. The Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego makes use of innovative treatment options at their various behavioral disorders treatment centers to help teenagers during the recovery process. You can call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-615-7266 for more information about our behavioral disorders program for teens.

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