Active parent consent for health surveys with urban middle school students: Processes and outcomes

Molly Secor-Turner, Renee Sieving, Rachel Widome, Shari Plowman, Eric Vanden Berk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: To achieve high participation rates and a representative sample, active parent consent procedures require a significant investment of study resources. The purpose of this article is to describe processes and outcomes of utilizing active parent consent procedures with sixth-grade students from urban, ethnically diverse, economically disadvantaged K-8 public schools involved in an evaluation of a middle school service-learning program. Methods: As part of the evaluation of the Lead Peace-Plus service-learning program, active parent consent was obtained for participation in school-based health surveys conducted with sixth graders in 3 schools. To achieve acceptable rates of parent permission, we employed multiple procedures including regular communication with school staff, incentives for involved schools and teachers, a multipronged approach for reaching parents, and direct encouragement of students to return forms through repeated classroom visits, individual and classroom incentives. We used Fisher's exact tests to compare selected characteristics among students whose parents weren't reached, those whose parents refused, and those whose parents consented to survey participation. Results: We achieved a parent response rate of 94.6% among sixth-grade students. No significant differences in student gender, race/ethnicity, school, or free/reduced lunch status were identified across parent consent status groups. Rates of absenteeism were significantly higher (p =.03) among students whose parents weren't reached compared to other groups. Conclusions: Employing a multifaceted active parent consent campaign can result in high rates of parental response with limited sampling bias among an urban, ethnically diverse and economically disadvantaged group of middle school students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-79
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of School Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2010


  • Adolescent health
  • Child and evaluation
  • Research


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