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J Adv Nurs. 2008 May;62(3):365-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2008.04599.x.

Ethical issues in research with homeless youths.

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Department of Psychosocial and Community Health, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.



This paper is a report of a study to document researcher, healthcare provider and programme administrators' experiences with ethical issues in research with homeless youths in North America.


While there are legal and ethical guidelines for research with adolescents and with vulnerable populations in general, there are no specific guidelines for the ethical conduct of research with homeless youths.


Using a web-based questionnaire, healthcare and social service providers, programme administrators and researchers working with homeless young people throughout the United States of America and Canada were surveyed in 2005. The survey group consisted of 120 individuals; a total of 72 individuals completed the survey. Survey questions included experiences with using incentives in research with homeless youths, consent and experiences with ethics review boards. Numerical data were analysed using frequencies and cross-tabulations. Text data were analysed qualitatively.


Researchers doing mental health and/or substance use research tended to use money as a research incentive, whereas healthcare providers and programme administrators tended to use non-monetary incentives. The majority of respondents reported using written consent for research from homeless youths, including minors. Respondents reporting difficulties with ethics review boards were mainly involved with intervention research.


Consensus is needed from a variety of stakeholders, including homeless youths and service providers, on use of various types of research incentives for different types of research, as well as use of consent for homeless youths who are minors.

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