Ethical Issues in Health Research and Therapy in Children

School-aged children spend most of their time away from home at educational institutions. The essential goal of any policy, institute, or organization is to provide the kid with a healthy classroom environment that promotes learning. Some students in our educational system are discovered to be suffering from numerous psycho-social challenges, which may result in negative student behavior or poor academic achievement. Children with special needs, learning disabilities, and different emotional and behavioral issues require special care; they deserve a supportive atmosphere to achieve the ultimate aim of becoming a good and constructive generation that will move society ahead.

Ethical Considerations in the Therapy of Children

Several ethical considerations need to be taken into account, and these ethical considerations become all the more pivotal when working with children. Children who go for therapy are often made to do so by their parents or on the advice of school authorities. They may not be aware of what is good for them and may not be able to appropriate consent, which is why the parents/guardians and the therapist should set therapy goals to serve the children's best interests.

Applying thee principles sounds easy but is complex in practice. Deciding what is in the stylish interests of the child is only sometimes straightforward. The chronological age of the child — her or his position of emotional maturity and capability to understand the consequences of certain conduct — may need to be considered. This is where the difference between youthful children, mature minors (who might be between the ages of 14 and 16), and youthful people (who progressed between the ages of 16 and 18) can also be important.

In utmost cases, parents have the stylish interests of their children at heart and can be reckoned upon to make wise opinions on their behalf. Ethical dilemmas are more likely to arise for health professionals when −

  • Parents differ with each other about the child's stylish interests.

  • Parents differ with the child or youthful person about the best course of action.

  • The health professional believes one or both parent(s) to act in their own rather than in their child's interests.

Ethical dilemmas also arise when the counselor or psychotherapist feels caught between their duty to the child's sequestration and reporting material bared in the session, either to the child's parents or authorities.

Ethical and Legal Issues in the Therapy of Children

Any psychotherapist's primary job is to treat children and families in psychotherapy ethically and legally. Because of children's specific vulnerabilities and the complexity involved with engaging with several family members, treatment with children and families necessitates the highest ethical behavior standard in various ways.

Because ethical rules are often established for adult instances, they may be difficult to apply to children and families. Specific considerations are required to comprehend the child's capacity to form treatment opinions, the conflicting legal and ethical norms involved in the treatment of children, the varying needs of children and their family members, and the special vulnerabilities of children.

Furthermore, most child and family therapists think advocating for the child and family is an ethical obligation. According to certain research, child therapists are inadvertently obligated to function as advocates for their kid visitors. However, this advocacy can complicate the treatment process by causing disagreements between the kid, therapist, and parent(s) over the child's or family's best interests. As a result, the therapist must always maintain the highest ethical and legal procedures while confronting issues that test the therapist's thoughts and actions.

Ethical Issues in Play Therapy of Pre-adolescents

Play therapy is a multidisciplinary field composed of professional counselors, social workers, academy counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychologists. Play therapists cleave to several ethical guidelines, including those set forth by the Association for Play Therapy, primary disciplines and professional associations, state licensing boards, and state and city laws. The ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, dedication, and justice should be espoused when working with children.

Clients have freedom of choice, and play therapists uphold their guests' weal, cover their guests, keep pledges to guests, practice fairness, and tell the verity. Ethical decision-making involves considering legal, professional, and customer-centered variables. The following are the ethical issues that play therapist practice with preadolescents play therapist capability, confidentiality and its limitations, and self-care.

Confidentiality and participating information with parents become further nuanced as children enter manhood. Self-care in setting limits and seeking regular supervision must be a precedence to continue conducting effective therapy with preadolescent clients.

Ethical Considerations in Psychotherapy of Adolescents

These are −

Maintaining Boundaries

Adolescence is an impressionable age, and when adolescents come for therapy, they may begin to pester the therapist with personal questions and establish a personal connection with them either by connecting via social media or trying to make relations outside of the therapeutic alliance. Therapists must effectively deal with such situations, set clear boundaries with the clients, and maintain a strictly professional relationship.


It is not rare for adolescents to go for therapy by choice, but a majority choose to opt for therapy at the insistence of their parents. As a result, parents may ask the therapist what discussions took place in the sessions and what their child shared with the therapist that the child does not share with them. In such cases, the therapists have to ensure that strict confidentiality is maintained and only the necessary information is shared that does to spill the beans about the conversation between the client and the therapist.


Adolescents are primarily a group who do not like to be told what is to be done. Therefore, parents should encourage their children to go for therapy but not force them. Therapy will work only if the adolescents willingly opt for it. Therapists should be mindful that while setting therapy goals, they should take the adolescents' opinions into account and let them choose what they feel is the best for them; this gives the adolescents a sense of worth and feels that they are a part of the alliance.


Counter-transference is the positive and negative feelings that therapists develop towards their clients. Ethically, therapists should identify the warning signs and effectively deal with the situation instead of letting their feeling affect the therapeutic alliance.

Encounters in Public Spaces

When therapists come across their adolescent clients in public spaces, they should not acknowledge the adolescent as their client and especially not begin to take updates about their situation; else, it might breach their privacy and make them uncomfortable.

Ethical Guidelines while Research with Children

It can be studied through the following headings −

Privacy and Confidentiality

Esteeming the sequestration and confidentiality of children and youthful people sharing in exploration involves close consideration of several aspects. Sequestration about how important information the child wants to reveal or partake, and with whom; how to bandy exploration confidentiality with children, including citation of the limits to this (e.g., safety enterprises similar as a detriment, neglect or abuse), in a way that does not introduce new, potentially worrisome, ideas; sequestration in the processes of information gathering/ data collection and storehouse that allows the exchange of information to be non-public to those involved. Children's obscurity and recognition in the publication and dispersion of exploration findings and associated conditioning.

Pressures may arise when experimenters' understandings and prospects regarding sequestration and confidentiality are at odds with the customary artistic, community, or family practices of exploration actors or conflict with other ethical considerations, similar to child protection. Experimenters have an ethical obligation to report safety enterprises, but always be prepared to do so sensitively, consulting with the child involved and following obligatory reporting guidelines if these live.

Informed Consent

Seeking informed consent from children and young people (as well as from their parent or guardian) is central to an ethical, children's rights approach to exploration. Informed concurrence signals respect for children's quality, their ability to express their views, and their right to hear these in matters that affect them.

Informed consent involves several important aspects; children must understand the exploration and their participation within it; consent should be an unequivocal agreement (generally involving the experimenters(s), the child, their parent's caregivers, and occasionally their institution/ community leaders). Children's consent must be given freely (and without compulsion), and the consent should be renegotiable so that children can withdraw at any stage of the exploration process.

Conducting research with children can help experimenters understand what they suppose about the issues that affect them. However, any exploration involving children must balance the exploration points with the safety and good of the actors. By furnishing the right support and knowing when to take applicable action, experimenters can ensure that children feel reputed and can share safely.

Disadvantages and Benefits

The most abecedarian consideration in undertaking exploration involving children is deciding whether the exploration needs to be done, if children need to be involved in it, and in what capacity. Consequently, at the veritable onset of the exploration process, experimenters need to engage with critical issues regarding the purpose of the exploration and the impact that sharing in the exploration may have on children in terms of implicit damages and possible benefits.

Ethical exploration is sustained by the principles of justice, beneficence, and non-maleficence, basically seeking to ensure that the exploration exertion brings about good and does no detriment. Assessing implicit damages and benefits is not straightforward as a range tells these factors across the multiple surroundings in which exploration occurs.

There can also be divergent opinions about what constitutes detriment and benefit and affiliated issues similar to respectable situations of threat. Ethical exploration requires reflecting on these and making opinions, minimizing pitfalls, and maximizing implicit benefits for the children sharing and others.


Working with children and adolescents can be challenging. Therapists should ensure that the children feel comfortable and that the therapist works in a way that serves the best interest of their clients. Young children are vulnerable, and this demands that therapists be extra careful with them and not violate their dignity in any way.

Updated on: 10-Feb-2023


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