Children as Human
Biologically speaking, a child is termed as human being whose age bracket is between the times of birth up but not limited to the age of puberty. The term child also defines the relationship between parents and their offspring. The law may identify a child as a minor, that is a person who has not yet attained the age where he or she can make his or her own conscious choice, and is considered vulnerable and cannot survive on his or her own. This is because the physical and mental capabilities of children in decision-making are constrained. Therefore, children need to have a person with the ‘right mind’ to guide and show them the way to life; in case of failure of this, the children are left to fend for themselves and are at risk of falling to predators, who would take advantage of them.
Children are mainly included in research since they tend to be innocent in their views and give honest answers without any bias. Children are also easy to coerce into participating in a given research. Little or no incentives at all are used to make the child participate. The children are also easy in consenting to whatever an adult who seems sensible to them tells them to do. Some unethical researchers tend to take advantage of this fact and use the children in research without the consent of their guardians or parents. Another reason is that the body of a child is highly active, since it is growing and responds differently to different test put upon it, for example, when performing a medical research on a child. That notwithstanding, the children are also the most affected victims during natural calamities and internal conflicts, therefore they provide a fertile ground for research material. An example of this can be seen the war ravaged conflict that torn Somalia in the East coast of Africa. Many children there are reeling from the effects of war and famine. They are severely malnourished and most have dropped out of schools. Such children form the basis of international study, with some being subjected to inhumane conditions just to extract information from them, with the pretext that the research will be used for the betterment of their future.
A research that involves the participation of a child should be conducted in the situation whereby the research problem is vital to the well being and health of the child or children under the study. The research should be bound by legal terms as well as ethical practices. Some researches do not directly benefit the children, but if they conform to the legal and ethical practices, then they can be allowed. For example, a research on whether to include children in a vehicle advertisement plot, which includes getting the views of children to whom pertain that given vehicle. To involve the children, a research should have the strongest basis that participation of a child is a must and an adult cannot substitute the child sample, that is, the child’s involvement is indispensible. An example whereby the participation is indispensible is in medical research, where children vaccines have to be tested on children. The research method that is to be used on the children should be appropriate for the given children, and so should the environment, in which the research is carried out, provide for emotional, physical, and psychological well being and safety of the child in consideration. In order to have a research involving the children, all the research proposals should be forwarded to the committee for research ethics for approval. This ensures that the research conforms to the set standards.
The ethical principles used in conducting research that actively involves children arose from the Nuremberg Trials, which took place after the Second World War. The Nuremberg Code also arose in those trials and it sets out clauses of certain moral, legal, and ethical rules that relate to research on human subjects. The rules for conducting research are contained in the Declarations of Helsinki, which came into force in 1964 and was later amended in 1989, and in 1996 included the issue of children as research in relation to informed consent (Greig, 2007).
The rules for doing research found in the Declaration of Helsinki were to be used on both adults and children. It states that sufficient information has to be given to people who are taking part in the research. It also emphasizes that the participants have to freely volunteer, and the research conductors have to give the participants an option of bailing out of the research at any time during its course. Participants in the research have to give an understandable consent and are encouraged to do so in written document completely signed by them. Within this declaration is also a clause on children research participation, which states that when a subject of a research is still a minor, the proper permission should be received from the parent or guardian, which can replace the consent of the participant according to the national legislation. If a minor child is able to give consent, that consent has to be obtained additionally to the consent of his/her legal guardian. This showed that the rights of a child were being seriously taken into consideration and it was no longer easy to use the children in research, since the consent of the parent or guardian was also required (Israel, 2006).
It is required that a child who is about to take part in a research understands fully what awaits him/her ahead in terms of the research topic. The child has to be aware of everything concerning the research to acknowledge his/her full consent and to comprehend that this consent is supposed to be voluntary and not coerced or bribed. In the Guidelines for Research by the National Children’s Bureau, it is pointed out that attentive and careful consideration is required when involving children in a research problem. Before the research the child and his or her guardian should inform about what would happen and what questions will be asked to the child. Besides, the guardian should give the feedback whether the child agrees to participate in the research. Effects of the research to the child should be clearly outlined and the mode of communication and the language used should be fully understandable to the child. The research ethics dictate that it is unwise for the researcher to enroll the child to the research without the consent of a responsible adult.
When conducting the research, the child has the right to know how confidential information is to be treated. They have to understand how and when their anonymous status should be maintained. The safety of the child should not be compromised and neither should be the moral status within the society. The research should not be carried out in the way that will cause embarrassment to the child. Real identification name of the child should only be used where necessary. The researcher should bear the responsibility and the course of action in case the safety and well being of the child is compromised, and is obligated to give all the information that is deemed to be important to the well being of the child. The child needs to know the series of steps to be taken when his or her life is deemed to be in danger. The researcher should make plans in advance in accordance to a professional advice on how to support the child in such cases.
In conclusion, it is, therefore, necessary to exercise caution and care when conducting research on children. Since children play a pivotal role in influencing the behavior of other people, their parents must ensure that proper handling methods are applied to their children. It is, therefore, upon the researcher to ensure that no harm befalls the child; for example, the child should not be exposed to violent content or conditions that may physically harm their bodies. The children should not be coerced to extract information, but must be allowed to give information on voluntary basis, while following the proper research ethics. With this, negative effects of the research on children would be minimized, whereas the positive effects would be maximized by enlightening both the child and the guardian.
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