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Research Methods – Research Ethics

2. The Ethics of Research with Children

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About this Lecture


In this lecture, we approach a topic littered with questions around ethical research practice –research with children, focusing in particular on: (i) outlining why working with children is so different from working with adults, focusing on children’s vulnerability, lack of understanding, and state of relative disempowerment; (ii) the famous Gillick case, wherein a child consented to a medical procedure, and the ethical debates that resulted from its outcome; (iii) the idea of assent, a particularly important concept when working with young children; (iv) opt-in and opt-out consent; (v) the considerations made when working with children who might be under the care of social services, or another adult who is not their parent.


In this course, Professor John Oates explores the ever-evolving field of research ethics. In the first lecture, we think about both the function and origin of research ethics, contextualising its principles within the British Psychological Society’s ethics framework. In the second lecture, we delve into an area of particular importance in the field – the ethics of research with children. One of the primary discussion points within this topic is the idea of consent and what constitutes valid/informed consent. In the third lecture, we broaden the conversation around consent to ways in which we might ascertain it as researchers. Next, we tackle what happens when unexpected events arise in research, outlining examples as incidental findings, participant disclosure, and adverse events. This lecture also addresses one of the more difficult aspects of research – deciding when to break a confidentiality agreement. In the fifth and final lecture, we bring research ethics into the modern age by exploring both the facilitated opportunities and ethical dilemmas brought about by the three main types of internet-based research.


John Oates is emeritus professor of developmental psychology at the Open University. His special field of research is child development, specifically perinatal mental health and early child development. Professor Oates is the lead for the British Psychological Society code of human research ethics and has a position in Brussels working for the European Research Council reviewing research bids. Some of Professor Oates’ recent publications include ‘Social constructions of mental health among Romani in Ukraine’ (2021) and ‘Mothers’ perceptions of their infants’ (2019).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Oates, J. (2021, November 01). Research Methods – Research Ethics - The Ethics of Research with Children [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Oates, J. "Research Methods – Research Ethics – The Ethics of Research with Children." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 05 Sep 2022,