Conducting research on sensitive topics with adolescents: ethical and developmental considerations. (2005)

J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2005 Feb;26(1):61-7.


School of Medicine and Institute for Medical Humanities, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77555-0319, USA.


Promotion of adolescent health requires well-designed scientific studies that determine the prevalence of the problem of interest, identify risk and resilience factors, and evaluate methods for prevention and intervention. Many adolescent-related health problems are typically considered sensitive by society (e.g., sexual and substance use behaviors), thus further complicating the research process. Using the principles of the Belmont Report as its framework, this paper draws on developmental theories to discuss ethical issues specific to the conduct of research with adolescents. Our ability to use developmentally sensitive research practices will be enhanced by further understanding of issues associated with risk and benefit assessment by the adolescent, their parents, and institutional review boards, and by delineating ways to ensure that adolescent participants are adequately protected and have a developmentally affirming experience.