Child Research Ethics and Standards

Improvements in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of children and adolescents with mental health disorders depend on continuing research and informational exchange between programs.


In order to meet the demand for evidence-based practices in child and adolescent mental health, children and adolescents must be involved as research subjects. However, they are provided with special protection from research risks because they are considered a vulnerable population.

All research and evaluation efforts must include appropriate considerations of safety, integrity, and privacy of each individual involved. This is especially true for children or adolescents who may be unable to give informed consent to participate, or who are giving their consent based on a limited understanding of the goals of the research study and what the research entails.

Prior to the initiation of any research project at CASA, an ethics review is conducted by the Health Research Ethics Board (HREB) at the University of Alberta. The HREB administers ethics reviews for all faculty, staff, and students at the University of Alberta, the Capital Health Authority, and Covenant Health. The HREB assessment of research on children is in accordance with the University of Alberta Standards for the Protection of Human Research Participants and the Tri Council Policy statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans. Revised: Tri Council Policy Statement Written ethical approval must be received from the HREB before any research project at CASA can commence.

When assessing research in children and adolescents, ethics committees have an additional responsibility to act as advocates for the interests and needs of the children and adolescents, who are often unable to speak for themselves. As such, the HREB also adheres to the laws and policies set forth by the Alberta and Canadian Government. The four acts which have the greatest implications for child and adolescent research are the following: