Archive for December, 2011
Should children be able to participate in psychological research?
This is a question I was asked when I studied A level psychology and one which can evoke strong emotions from people who do extensive research into the area, there are areas of child research which has proven the child was put in situations which were highly unethical and should never be allowed to be repeated.
A lot of research is done using children, for example Mary Ainsworth’s Stranger Attachment research was done using small children and babies in order to see different types of attachment with mothers and how introducing strangers to the child resulting in affecting their behaviour. From watching videos of this research taking place, it can be seen that children with weak attachment to their parents were distressed when they left the room, but equally as distressed when the stranger entered, they could not be comforted by either. This begs the question of whether the means outweighs the distress, does the result of the research outweigh the visible distress caused to the child.
There are many different psychological experiments that have been carried out on children which have been highly unethical, studies like this is what have caused people to question whether they should be allowed to or not. Another example is ‘The Monster Study’ conducted in 1939 by Wendell Johnson in which he carried out a stuttering experiment on 22 orphaned children who suffered with stuttering, half the children received positive speech therapy and showed improvement whereas the other half received negative feedback and were made to feel belittled. Over half of the children who received the negative therapy suffered with their speech problems for many years and suffered negative psychological effects. Even Johnson’s peers were shocked that he would carry out this sort of research on children.
Also ‘Little Albert’ was a child exposed to white objects and accompanied by a loud banging noise behind his head, through this Albert developed a psychological discomfort to anything white. He left the hospital before he could be desensitised from this association.
However since the release of strict ethical regulations, research with children is carried out the same way that it is with an adult. The parent /guardian of the child signs the consent form and stays with the child during the research, however, the child has no say in the situation and in many cases, do not have a true understanding of what is happening to them. They are debriefed and the parents can withdraw them at any time if the child is seen to be in a state on psychological distress.
With regards to research using children I believe that as long as the guidelines of the APA are followed vigorously and the child is not put into any potential danger and will not suffer long term effects of the experiment then research should be allowed to occur. Experiments such as the monster study and little Albert should never take part again. Children in research have provided great theories into psychology through participating in these research situations.