YOUTH PERCEPTIONS OF RESEARCHIva Zovkic1, Mark Pancer2, Michael Busseri1, Linda Rose-Krasnor1, and The Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement 1Brock University, 2Wilfrid Laurier University Abstract Research with youth faces particular challenges, including potential confusion about researchers’ intentions and vulnerabilities related to power differentials between youth and adults. To better understand these challenges, we explored youth responses to a “typical” research experience. After completing a questionnaire as part of a larger study of youth engagement, 192 youth (76% female; M = 16.64) were asked for perceptions of their research participation. 87% of the 143 youth responding to a question about how the questionnaire made them feel indicated that they were emotionally affected, either positively (64%) or negatively (24%). Younger participants were more negatively affected than older youth. The extent of emotional involvement in research experiences suggests a need to better understand youth perceptions of participation and to make the research environment “youth friendly”. • What questions did you enjoy answering the least? • Categories for analyses included “all/most”, “myself”, “relationships”, “principles” • No sex differences • Significant age differences, Chi-Square(3)=8.65, p<.034 • Younger participants were more likely to mention “all/most” questions than older youth (53% vs. 29% respectively) and less likely to mention relationship items (5% vs. 23%) • Discussion and Conclusions • Overall, a majority of respondents had a positive response to the survey. Many indicated that the questions gave them insight into their own feelings. Youth reported that questions about their involvement and their personal characteristics and beliefs were enjoyed most. Almost as many youth (31% vs. 23%), however, found the latter questions to be least enjoyable. Answering relationship questions were more enjoyable for older youth. Perhaps the older respondents were more focused on their relationships than younger youth or felt more competent to make assessments in this domain. • Almost a quarter of the youth had a negative experience reaction to the survey. Specifically, youth reported that the questions made them feel bad about their situations or found the survey boring or impersonal. Many considered the questions about other people’s values difficult to answer and presumptuous. Demographic questions sometimes were seen to be more intrusive than investigators often assume and some youth considered these questions to reduce their individuality by categorizing them. • Younger participants were more likely to report negative responses than older youth. Perhaps they were less likely to understand the goals of the research or had more difficulty with the format or language. • Overall, researchers need to provide more context for survey questions, in order for youth to understand their purpose. Further, researchers need to be aware of the potential negative consequences they may have for youth – consequences that may not be readily apparent from an adult perspective. • Future research should focus on finding ways to make young people’s experience with research as positive as possible. One method is to include youth in the planning stages of research projects, in order to benefit from their perspective on research goals and methods. Such consultation also would help researchers to anticipate possible negative consequences and make the research environment more “youth friendly”. Youth-adult research partnerships are a promising strategy to achieve these goals. Figure 4. What questions would you have included? Figure 3. What questions did you enjoy answering the least? Introduction There is little research available on how youth perceive their experience as research participants. However, young participants may be particularly vulnerable to age-related ethical issues, lack ability to understand researchers’ intentions and use of the information collected, and be unfamiliar with the language and methodology of commonly used measurement tools. The goal of this research was to explore youth perceptions of the research process and examine the possible age and sex differences. Participants and Procedures 192 youth (76% female; M = 16.64, 14-19 years old) participated as part of a larger project on youth engagement. Youth completed a 30-min. questionnaire measuring youth engagement; values of self, parents, and peers; social support; relationship quality, self-description; self-esteem; and demographics information. Six questions on research participation were included at the end of the questionnaire: how filling out the questionnaire made the youth feel, which questions they enjoyed answering the most and the least, which questions they would and would not have included, and what comments they had about research participation or youth engagement. Responses to each question were coded into the categories displayed in the graphs below. Figure 5. What questions would you have not included? Figure 6. Please give us any comments you have about the research. • Individual Differences • Analyses • Chi-Square analyses were used to assess age and sex differences in categorical responses • Age groups were formed using a median split: “Younger” youth were 14-16 yrs. (n=72) of age and “older” youth were 17-19 yrs. old (n=120). • Categories were selected for each analyses based on cell frequency and content • How did answering these questions make you feel? • Categories combined to include “positive”, “negative” and “neutral” • 64% of respondents had positive reactions, 24% had negative, and 13% had neutral reactions • No sex differences • Trend for age, Chi-Square(2)=4.78, p<.091 • Younger participants were less positive about the research than older youth (51% vs. 70% respectively), more negative (32% vs. 20%), and more neutral (17% vs. 10%) • What questions did you enjoy answering the most? • Categories for analyses included “none”, “all/no”, “friends/family”, “self/skills”, “involvement” • No age or sex differences • Results Selected References Dorn, L. D., Susman, E. J., & Fletcher, J. C. (1995). Informed consent in children and adolescents: age, maturation and psychological state. Journal of Adolescent Health, 16, 185-190. Fisher, C. B., Higgins-D’Alessandro, A., Rau, J. B., Kuther, T. L, & Belanger, S. (1996). Referring and reporting research participants at risk: views from urban adolescents. Child Development, 67, 2086-2100. Thompson, R. A. (1990). Vulnerability in research: a developmental perspective on research risk. Child Development, 61, 1-16. The Centres of Excellence are a Health Canada-funded program. The opinions expressed in this document do not necessarily reflect those of Health Canada. Figure 1. How did answering these questions make you feel? Figure 2. What questions did you enjoy answering the most?