Home > Ethical review and children’s research in Ireland.

Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Felzmann, Heike and Sixsmith, Jane and O’Higgins, Siobhan and Ni Chonnachtaigh, Sorcha and Nic Gabhainn, Saoirse (2010) Ethical review and children’s research in Ireland. Dublin: Stationery Office.

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A substantial increase in research into the lives of children has been experienced over the last 20 years in many countries, including Ireland. This increase is not only in the amount of research undertaken, but also in the multidisciplinary range of such research. Research with children involves working with potentially vulnerable participants, who not only require specific protection but also have the capacity for independent agency that necessitates respect from researchers. With the increase in research, there has been a related increase in awareness by the research community of the need to ensure that all research with children is carried out to the highest ethical standards. Until recently, ethical review of research was left to the discretion of the researchers, who were generally considered sufficiently trustworthy to safeguard their participants’ rights and well-being by virtue of their education and professional standing. Over the last two decades, however, it has become more common to convene Research Ethics Committees to review research proposals with the goal of ensuring that ethical requirements are fulfilled and to provide ethical oversight to researchers. This has resulted in an increase in the number of Research Ethics Committees operating worldwide, including in Ireland.

In relation to children’s research, ethical review attempts to ensure that research projects have provisions in place that will enable researchers to do justice to the duties of both protection and respect of child participants. However, a variety of problematic issues have been highlighted. Research with children into the ethics of children’s research has identified tensions between balancing risk and benefit, on the one hand, and autonomy, competence and parental authority, on the other. The reliability and validity of review by Research Ethics Committee has also been brought into question: not only are requirements vastly different between countries (Hearnshaw, 2004), but there is ample evidence to show that decision-making by different Research Ethics Committees In the same country can differ significantly (Garfield, 1995), even when they are governed by the same authority (Angell et al, 2006). In order to counter this variability, it has been argued that increased regulation needs to be put in place and this has happened in some countries.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Report
Drug Type
All substances
March 2010
132 p.
Stationery Office
Corporate Creators
Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs
Place of Publication
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

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