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Code of Conduct

MR Subjects' Rights by MR Subjects Type

AA. Children and Young People



When conducting research with children or young adults, ESOMAR advises that in the absence of a national definition, a ‘child’ is a minor 12 years old or less and a ‘young person’ is 13 to 17 years of age. In Canada, a child is to be defined as under the age of 14, a young person as aged 14-17.   In Mexico, all those under 18 are considered children.  The UK MRS Code of Conduct defines a child as a person under the age of 16 and 'young people' refers to those aged 16 and 17 years.  In the USA the Children's Online Privacy protection Act (COPPA) requires verifiable parental or the legal guardian's consent for interviewing children below the age of 13 years.

Consents Required

  • Consent from the responsible adult i.e. an adult responsible for the child's safety and welfare at the time of the research, is required to ask the child whether they will participate. Consent of a parent or responsible adult MUST be obtained before interviewing a child under 15 in the following circumstances:
  • In home/at home (face-to-face and telephone interviewing)
  • Group discussions/depth interviews
  • Postal questionnaires
  • Online questionnaires or email
  • Where interviewer and child are alone together
  • In public places such as in-street/in-store/central locations unless the child is 14 years or over, in which case interviews may take place without the consent of a parent or responsible adult
In Germany, children under 11 MUST have consent (oral) to participate from their legal representative.  With children aged 11-13, the agency may establish if the child has the necessary cognitive faculty and not seek consent but if they are under 14 years, the interview should not be conducted without the knowledge of an adult present in the home.  In addition, consent is always needed if personal data relating to adults will be asked of the children at recruitment or during the interview.

In Mexico, written consent from the responsible adult must be obtained for all market research with MR subjects under 18 years of age.
In the UK in certain circumstances the adult consent may be waived but only with permission from the MRS’s Standards Board.


Explicit consent from the child MUST also be given; the child MUST have their own opportunity to agree or decline to participate. When online research is carried out, a notice to children informing them of the requirement for consent MUST be shown at the point where personal information is requested.


Personal information relating to other people MUST NOT be collected from children unless it is to be used to gain consent from a parent/responsible adult. Where consent is being sought, it may be preferable for some classification questions to be asked of the parent/responsible adult, rather than the child/young person.


Details of the person giving consent (name and role) should be recorded.


The responsible adult MUST be made aware of any observation or recording.

Online Market Research with Children


EphMRA recommends that online research is not conducted with children under the age of 14.


For online research with children MR subjects should be asked to give their age before any other personal information is requested. If the age given is under 15, the child MUST be excluded from giving further personal information until the appropriate consent from the responsible adult has been obtained and verified.


In the USA, researchers MUST abide by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This federal ruling applies to the online collection of personal information from children under 13. It details what a website operator MUST include in a privacy policy, when and how to seek verifiable consent from a parent and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children’s privacy and safety online.


A notice to the parent/responsible adult should be placed on the website or sent via email asking for their consent for the child to participate in online market research. ESOMAR provide guidelines upon the recommended content of such a notice. See ESOMAR Online Research Guidelines 2011.

Role of the Responsible Adult


Consider the necessity for the presence of a parent/guardian during fieldwork. It is recommended that when interviewing a child in their own home, a parent/responsible adult is present, not necessarily in the room but in the house. If a child or the responsible adult asks for an adult to be present, this request should be respected.


The researcher should ensure that the responsible adult has full details of the research venue, name of moderator, finishing time, etc.

Researchers' Responsibilities


No study can ask a child to do something illegal for their age.


Language on questionnaires should be suitable for the age group.


Refreshments provided should be suitable for the age group and care should be taken to avoid any products that are known to cause allergic reactions.


The researcher should take responsibility for safely handing over the child/young person after an interview or ensuring that arrangements for them to get home safely are in place.

In Canada, MRIA affiliated researchers must take into account the degree of maturity of the child or young person involved when considering what subjects may or may not be safely dealt with in an interview.



Where incentives are used they should be suitable and acceptable for the age of the child/young person and fitting for the task required.

Product or Device Testing


If a child is going to be asked to test a product or device, the responsible person should be allowed to see this and (if they wish) to try it themselves.


If children/young people are to be asked to take part in any form of product or device testing, researchers should take special care to ensure that the products/devices are safe to handle or consume and that the child/young person does not suffer from any relevant allergy. EphMRA recommends that active medicines are not used in market research with children.

Criminal Record Checks for Interviewers


Criminal record checks for interviewers may be necessary in some circumstances but it is not necessary for all researchers.. Aug 2009

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