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J Adolesc Health. 1997 Dec;21(6):376-83.

Obtaining written parent permission for school-based health surveys of urban young adolescents.

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Education Development Center, Inc., Newton, Massachusetts 02160, USA.



To document the process and implications of obtaining written parental consent for school-based health surveys of young adolescents.


As part of the evaluation of the Reach for Health prevention program, written parental permission was obtained for student participation in school-based health surveys conducted for three cohorts of seventh graders (N = 3253) enrolled in three urban schools serving predominately economically disadvantaged minority adolescents. Students in general, bilingual, and special education classes were eligible to participate. Rates were recorded for the number of forms returned by parents, parental consents and refusals, student consents and refusals, and surveys completed. Procedures for achieving acceptable rates of written parental permission and survey completion included daily communication between research and school staff during the consent form collection period, student and teacher incentives, provision of alternate activities for students without consent, and scheduling of multiple makeup surveys for absentee students.


Survey completion rates met or exceeded preset goals and ranged from a low of 70% for Cohort A to a high of 83% for Cohort C. At least 89% of the parents in each cohort returned forms. Of forms returned, parent refusals ranged from a high of 18% (Cohort A) to a low of 12% (Cohort C).


Obtaining written permission from parents for young adolescents to participate in school-based health surveys is possible in urban settings and has potential benefits in terms of community awareness and involvement in research and evaluation studies. It does, however, require a substantial commitment of program resources as well as significant planning and data collection prior to actual survey administration.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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