Adolescent Perceptions of Risk in Research

Principal Investigator: Lynn Sorsoli, Ed.D.

This study is designed to increase the understanding of risk assessment in relation to asking 9th and 10th grade adolescents sensitive questions regarding sexual behavior to provide the most appropriate protections for participants. Ninth and 10th grade students are less likely than older students to have had sexual experience and their inclusion is more likely to disturb IRB members. This research will provide necessary knowledge about the proximate impact on adolescents of participating in sensitive research that includes questions about sexual behaviors, a major contribution to our understanding of the ethics of conducting such studies. The study will also determine the characteristics of this population that are most closely related to risk for harm, and thus will offer empirical directions for researchers and IRB members regarding the need for additional and specific safeguards in research studies on sexuality among adolescents. In addition to improving researchers’ ability to evaluate and ameliorate risk, the heretofore missing empirical information gathered will enable researchers to provide more informed responses for stakeholders with differing perceptions of the risks of participation in human sexuality studies (e.g., parents, school administrators, IRBs, and participants) and will contribute to the development of more comprehensive studies regarding the ethics of human sexuality research.

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