Negotiating the legal, ethical and practical challenges of researching sexual health education and service use among care-experienced young people

Catherine Nixon, Marion Henderson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Conducting research with care-experienced young people (i.e., young people who had previously been looked-after in foster care, residential care, or at home with their parents/a relative/a family friend under the supervision of social work services) can present a range of ethical, legal, and practical challenges that need to be successfully negotiated to successfully collect data. In this case study, we review some of the challenges we encountered when designing and conducting a study focused on understanding the sexual health education and service use of care-experienced young people. Our case study begins with an overview of our study, including why we decided to use qualitative in-depth interviews to address our research question. We then explore how our sample selection was influenced by legislation relating to sexual offenses and child protection. In doing so, we describe the procedures we developed for handling child protection concerns and participant distress. We then reflect upon our experiences of recruiting through gatekeepers, including how recruitment was affected by having a named individual within the organization to champion our research and data protection legislation. We then discuss how we navigated conflicting views about the need to obtain parental consent for the participation of under 16s in research, before discussing how we assessed the capacity of young people to provide informed consent and addressed the potential for literacy difficulties among our sample. Our case study concludes with a discussion of the procedures we put in place to ensure both the physical and emotional safety of researchers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSAGE Research Methods Cases
Subtitle of host publicationMedicine and Health
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Electronic)9781529726619
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2020

Publication series

NameSAGE Research Methods Cases: Medicine and Health


  • sexual health
  • sexual health education
  • ethical challenges

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