Doing More Good than Harm? The Effects of Participation in Sex Research on Young People in the Netherlands
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Ethical guidelines for research with human participants stress the importance of minimizing risks and maximizing benefits. In order to assist Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) and researchers to make more informed risk/benefit analyses with regard to sex research among adolescents, the current study examined the effects of participation in sex research among 899 young people (15–25 years old). Participants completed three questionnaires on a wide range of sexuality-related measures. They also completed scales measuring their levels of distress, need for help, and positive feelings due to their research participation. In general, negative effects of research participation seemed limited, while benefits of participation appeared substantial. Several differences with regard to sociodemographic characteristics were found (e.g., females experienced more distress then males and younger or lower educated participants experienced more positive feelings). In addition, victims of sexual coercion reported more distress and need for help due to their participation, but also experienced more positive feelings. No significant differences were found in relation to experience with sexual risk behaviors (e.g., experience with one-night-stands). Several limitations of the study were discussed, as were implications for future research. Overall, the findings caution IRBs and researchers against being overly protective regarding the inclusion of young people in sex research.
KeywordsInstitutional Review Board Sex research Research participation Research effects Harm Benefits
The data used in the current study were collected as part of a study on sexual coercion among young people, which was funded by ZonMw (The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development) (Grant number 124260002). We would like to thank Mirre Hubers of ZonMw for reminding us of the importance of addressing the effects of research participation of young people.
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