UCL Research Ethics


Research with children and young people

Guidance on conducting research involving children and young people.

Research involving children and young people should only be conducted where:

  • The research question posed is important to the health and well-being of children;
  • The participation of children is indispensable;
  • The study method is appropriate for children;
  • The circumstances in which the research is conducted provide for the physical, emotional and psychological safety of the child;
  • Informed consent has been obtained;
  • Ethics approval has been granted.

Please review the guidance on data protection for research with children and UCL safeguarding policies.

Ethical Research Involving Children (ERIC)

In order to encourage greater consideration of ethical issues in research with children, UNICEF Office of Research in a collaboration with other organizations, have created an Ethical Research Involving Children Compendium. Resources include an International Charter and a Compendium on ethical issues and challenges, including over 20 case studies. 

We strongly encourage everyone thinking about doing research with children to read and reflect on the questions they pose in chapter ‘Getting Started’, designed to help guide the researchers when planning and conducting research involving children. Please see the below chart, which highlights the main points for consideration.

Ethical Research Involving Children*

Does this research need to be done?
The Children
The Researcher(s)
Planning and preparation
  • Is this research important for children?
  • How will this research be inclusive of children?
  • How will children’s safety be ensured during the research process?
  • What information do children need to consent to being involved?
  • Have you considered your role in the research?
  • How well prepared are you, the researcher, to meet and conduct research involving children?
  • Who else do you need to consult to involve children in the study?
  • Have you considered the role of parents (or carers) in the study?
  • What community and stakeholder concerns exist about this research?
  • How will children’s involvement be resourced?
  • Do you have Ethics Approval?
  • Are there any risks for you in undertaking this research?
Research design and methods
  • Will children be involved in the design of the research?
  • Is the research methodology including data collection inclusive of all children?
  • Are the research methods appropriate for children?
  • Do all staff involved have the requisite skills and expertise to undertake the research?
Data collection
  • How will children’s participation be supported?
  • How will children’s involvement be recognised and supported financially?
  • How will children’s privacy and confidentiality be respected?
  • How will concerns about children’s safety that arise during the research be attended to?
  • Do children require extra support to contribute?
  • How will you assess the competence of children to consent?
  • How will you respond to children if they become distressed or upset?
  • How will you ensure your own emotional and physical safety?
Analysis, writing, and dissemination
  • Are children to be involved in the analysis of data?
  • How will the research findings be disseminated to children, other relevant stakeholders and wider audiences?
  • How will you ensure that research findings are disseminated safely?
  • Will the research make a difference to children?
  • How will you ensure data is returned or safely stored and destroyed?

* The text in the ERIC chart has been reproduced from Graham, A., Powell, M., Taylor, N., Anderson, D. & Fitzgerald, R. (2013). Ethical Research Involving Children. Florence: UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti. © United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). This chart is also available as a downloadable pdf: 

Reading list