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Consent and Assent

What is assent and when do I need it?

When children or adults of limited cognitive capacity participate in research, researchers must secure the assent of the potential participant as well as the permission of the parent or guardian (in place of the consent of the participant). The assent process should involve taking the time to explain to the participant what will happen in the study, why the study is being done, what will be done to the participants, and that, if they object, that the research will be terminated and the participant will not be punished or scolded. The assent must be provided in a language that the participants can understand, while communicating the essential elements of consent without obscuring the important information in a lot of detail. The greater the cognitive capacity of the participant, the greater the amount of information that should be shared.

 The assent information can be presented orally or in writing, depending on the literacy level of the participants. When using assent, parents and guardians must sign a permission form rather than a consent form. If a participant refuses to participate, even if a parent has signed the permission form, the research will not take place.