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Assessing the Informed-Assent Procedure for the National Survey of Youth in Custody (NSYC)

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2020
34 pages
This study examined how frequently youth understood their consent to complete the National Survey of Youth in Custody's (NSYC's), which collected data from about 11,000 adjudicated youth about sexual contacts during confinement in juvenile facilities.
The consent protocol was developed and implemented to ensure that youth understood the core elements of the survey. It consisted of an interviewer reading scripted text to each youth and assessment of his/her comprehension based on responses to six questions about the nature of participation in the survey and study procedures, such as voluntary participation and confidentiality. Regarding the implementation of this protocol, the current study considered how many youth had problems in understanding the consent procedures, whether there were correlates related to misunderstanding the assent process fully, and whether the ability to understand the consent process correlated with a willingness to complete the survey and any difficulties the youth had with the survey questions. Overall, approximately 71 percent of the youth understood all elements in the consent protocol without any form of assistance; about 30 percent of the youth did not initially understand at least one element; 21 percent needed repetition of the text related to at least one element; 7 percent needed to have the text for one or more elements paraphrased; and fewer than 1 percent failed to show understanding of at least one element after all assistance had been provided. Males, non-Whites, younger youth (14 years old or younger), and those with educational deficiencies showed more difficulty understanding the NSYC consent materials. Although these findings suggest the need for interviewers to assess comprehension and assist research subjects, this study indicates that the development and use of a more stringent assessment technique would be beneficial. 10 tables, 21 references, and appended consent protocol questions

Date Published: April 1, 2020