A health research community is asked to evaluate a family centre that offers follow-up and treatment to children who live at home with parents with ongoing or previous mental- and/or substance-related problems. The purpose of the evaluation is to establish the degree to which the methodology used at the family centre functions as intended, and to what extent the children find that follow-up from the family centre helps them to cope with everyday life better.

In order to acquire the best possible basis for the evaluation, the researcher wishes to talk to ten of the children who are all aged 10−18 years. The researcher wants to carry out semi-structured group interviews with the children, and the interviews will last about one hour. The researcher wants to record the interviews to avoid making notes underway. Prior to the interviews, the researcher will obtain consent from the informants or their parents/guardians.

  1. What follow-up routines may the children need before, during and after the interview?
  2. The researcher proposes visiting the children's parents at home to obtain their consent regarding their children's participation in the study. The researcher will then explain the background for the study, how it will be conducted and how the information will be used afterwards. What ethical issues must the researcher keep in mind when adopting this approach? How can the researcher be sure that the children and/or parents understand what research is, what the researcher's role is and how the content of the interview will be used?
  3. The researcher has also considered asking the staff at the family centre for help to obtain consent from the children. What are the advantages and disadvantages of such an approach?
  4. The interviews must take place in the afternoon and evening because the children are at school during the day. The researcher therefore decides to take along pizza and soft drinks for the participants so that they do not have to take part in the interview on an empty stomach. Could this be deemed an incentive?
  5. The researcher suggests carrying out semi-structured group interviews but sees that it might also be appropriate to conduct individual interviews. What issues must the researcher keep in mind when choosing a methodology?
  6. What precautions should the researcher take when obtaining free and informed consent, keeping in mind that this concerns children in a vulnerable life situation?