Necessary Elements of an Assent Form



Children (those under 18) must be given an explanation – at a developmental level appropriate to the child’s age, maturity, experience, and condition – of the study being done, the procedures to be used, their meaning to the child in terms of discomfort and inconvenience, and the general purpose of the research.


Children must be asked whether or not they wish to participate in the research.  Mere failure by the child to object must not be construed as assent – affirmative agreement is necessary.  When data are collected in schools, investigators should inform the teachers and administrators of the following: (a) written parent consent is required for children to be given the option to participate;  (b) administrators or teachers may invite but should not instruct children to participate;  and (c) that children are allowed to decline participation with no repercussions.  If a child declines to participate only because he/she does not wish to leave his/her current activity (e.g., playground), the investigator should ask the child whether he/she might like to participate another time.  If the child’s answer is yes, then the investigator may ask the child to participate again, when the child is engaged in a different activity.  If the child’s answer is no, then the investigator must record this response as a definitive “no” and should not ask the child to participate again.


In any proposal involving children, the investigator must indicate: 1) how assent will be obtained (what the investigator will say to the child and whether or not the child’s parent(s) or guardian(s) will be present); 2) how the child’s verbal assent will be documented.  The child must either sign a very brief assent form (required for children age 9 years or older; optional for children younger than  9 years) and/or verbally indicate a willingness to participate (typically this is the mode of assent for children younger than age 9 years).  However, no child may participate in any research unless the child’s parent/guardian has provided written consent prior to the child’s participation.


If subjects are minors use the following guidelines for obtaining assent/consent:

         Children ages 0-6 years – signature of parent/guardian/legal representative on Informed Consent Form is required.

         Children ages 7-8 years – signature of minor on Assent Form is optional; signature of parent/guardian/legal representative on Informed Consent Form is required.

         Children ages 9-17 years – signature of minor on Assent Form and signature of parent/guardian/legal representative on Informed Consent Form are both required.

See also:  Necessary Elements of an Informed Consent Form











Sample Assent Form

Institutional Review Board

Bryn Mawr College


Project Name:

Children’s Understanding of Characters’ Feelings Study


Time, place, and major components to be addressed (purpose of the research)

            We want to understand what kids your age understand about how the characters in the short stories feel.   If you choose to do our project, you will read 2 short stories about some characters and answer 5 questions about their feelings for each story.  The questions will ask about characters feeling happy, sad, or mad.  One of the study directors will ask you the questions and write down your answers.  Each story will take about 15 minutes to read.  You will read the stories and answer the questions in a quiet classroom near your usual school classroom. 


Discomfort and inconvenience

            The study will be done in school during recess time.  You will miss one recess period if you choose to participate in this project.  


Voluntary participation

Your parents said it was ok for you to do this project with us, and we also want to ask you.  It is your choice to do this project—you do not have to participate unless you want to.  It is okay if you decide that you do not want to be in the project.  If you choose to participate, you can stop at any time. You don’t have to answer any questions that you don't want to answer.


Your answers


            We will not tell anyone what you have said – not your parents, teachers, friends, or anyone else at school.


Contact Information


            This study is being done by [NAME] at Bryn Mawr College.  [NAME’s] phone number is [PHONE NUMBER] and e-mail is [E-MAIL].  If you have any questions about the study, you can call or e-mail to ask them.


Statement of agreement to participate


               You have either read or had this assent form read to you. You understand that you have been asked to participate in a project about feelings, and that you will read stories and will be asked questions about how the characters feel.  You have been asked if you had any questions about the project, and your questions have been answered.  You agree to participate in the project.  You have been given a copy of this form.



Name (please print): _______________________________________________


Signature of child:  _______________________  Date: ________________________or


Oral agreement of child (Please check)______________


Interviewer signature:                                                               Date: _______________________


Please note that you must obtain written informed consent from the parent/guardian of any child under 18 who participates in your research. There are some exceptions, but written informed consent is the norm.  Consult the IRB Chair if you think an exception may apply in your research.


All of the necessary elements of informed consent need to be included, as provided in the template for Necessary Elements of Informed Consent, found on the IRB website. The following signature block must be included, if any of the conditions listed below are planned for the research.


You must also be sure to put information in the consent form about any possible payment or in-kind gift you are planning to give to children who participate in the research. The parent has the right to veto this payment or in-kind gift.



Boilerplate for Signature Block for Parents/Legal Guardians of Minor Participants

Please fill out and sign the form below to indicate whether you agree to allow your child to participate in this research.  You will be given a copy of this form to keep after you have signed it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Have you read this consent form or it has it been read to you?                      

Yes______     No______

Have all of your questions about the form and the research been answered?

Yes______     No______

Do you understand the nature of the research in which your child is about to participate? 

Yes______     No______

Do you agree to allow your child to participate in this study?                       

Yes______     No______


[Include any of the following questions that are applicable to your particular project.]

Do you give us permission to [audio/video]tape your child’s interview?       

Yes______     No______

Do you give us permission to use your child’s photograph in our research?   

Yes______     No______

Do you give us permission to attach your child’s name to his or her responses if they are quoted or summarized in any papers, reports or articles produced from this study? (If you check no, your child’s name will not be used, and the researcher will follow the steps described above to be sure his or her responses remain confidential.)

Yes______     No______

Do you give us permission to archive your child’s [audiotaped/videotaped if applicable] responses, so that future researchers may study them? (If you check no, these responses will be destroyed at the end of this study and no later than [insert specific date].)                                                                              

Yes______     No______

[Note: you may want to specify limitations on the scope of future research use, for example “so that future researchers studying cognitive development in children may study them.”]

Do you give us permission to use your child’s [audiotaped/videotaped] responses in other professional settings, such as university classes or conference presentations to other researchers?          

Yes______     No______

[Again you may want to specify limitations on the scope of future use, such as “classes in developmental psychology” or “conference presentations on the results of this study.”]

If videotapes are involved, you must add the following question:

Do you understand that even though we will not use your child’s name in connection with these video clips, there is a risk that someone watching the video may recognize his or her face?”       

Yes______     No______


Name of Participant: ___________________________________________________________________________


Name of Parent or Legal Guardian (please print): _____________________________________________________




Telephone Number:                                                                                                                            


Signature of Parent or Legal Guardian:  _________________________________________

Date: _______________


Researcher’s Signature     ____________________________________________

Date: ______________________