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Research Methods – Research Ethics

2. The Ethics of Research with Children

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About this Lecture


Lecture two approaches a topic littered with questions around ethical research practice – conducting research with children. Professor Oates begins by differentiating why working with children is so different from working with adults, focusing on children’s vulnerability, lack of understanding, and state of relative disempowerment. The lecture goes on to discuss the famous Gillick case, wherein a child consented to a medical procedure, and the ethical debates that resulted from its outcome. Next, the idea of assent is considered; a particularly important concept when working with young children. Lastly, this lecture defines opt-in and opt-out consent, and explores the importance of 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 (The Open University) explores the ever-evolving field of research ethics. He begins by walking through research ethics as a specific practice within more general ethical frameworks, drawing on principles of moral philosophy. This first lecture goes on to establish both the function and origin of research ethics, contextualising its principles within the British Psychological Society’s ethics framework. The second lecture delves 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. This leads into lecture three, which broadens the conversation around consent to ways in which we might ascertain it as researchers. Lecture four tackles what happens when unexpected events arise in research, outlining the examples of 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. The fifth and final lecture brings 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: participant active, participant passive, and observation.


John Oates is an 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.

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, John. "Research Methods – Research Ethics – The Ethics of Research with Children." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 30 Nov 2021,

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