But is this really the ‘parent’ or ‘guardian’? Practical strategies for consent to child research in South Africa

Cathy May Slack, Anne Strode


Research ethics committees (RECs) in South Africa may require consent from a parent or legal guardian for child research. In instances where an REC determines that parental or guardianship consent is required, how far should researchers go to establish if the accompanying adult is in fact the parent or guardian? Should researchers accept disclosures at face value, probe assertions that are made, or even call for supporting documentation? 

In this article we set out the facts research staff should possess, propose key questions they could ask, and recommend practical steps for uncertain cases. We recognise that a parental/guardianship consent strategy may not be appropriate in all instances, but do not debate that issue in this article. This article is confined to practical advice for researchers wishing to implement a parental or guardianship consent approach.

Authors' affiliations

Cathy May Slack, HIV/AIDS Vaccines Ethics Group, School of Applied Human Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Anne Strode, School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal; HIV/AIDS Vaccines Ethics Group, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Cite this article

South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2016;9(1):35. DOI:10.7196/SAJBL.2016.v9i1.457

Article History

Date submitted: 2016-01-27
Date published: 2016-02-15

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