Both “consent” and “assent” involve informing research participants about the research and its risks and benefits and documenting the research participants’ understanding and agreement to participate in the research.
Application of either “consent” or “assent” is related to the age of the participants. Adult research participants typically give their “consent” to participate in the research.
For research involving minors or persons not competent to give consent, a parent or legal guardian must give permission to allow the participant to participate in the research. In other words, it is the parent or legal guardian who gives the (written) informed consent if the research involves a participant not competent to give consent, but, after receiving information about the nature, procedural requirements, and risks of research participation, the participant is asked to give his or her (verbal) assent, or agreement to participate. The nature of the assent should be developmentally appropriate.
CCSNH’s IRB’s policy with respect to assent is based largely on Salem State University’s policy.
The consent process is a two-part process consisting both of parental consent and assent by the minor.
Approaches to assent by age range
Age 5-7: A simple oral description of the child’s involvement is given to the participant and verbal assent is requested. The procedure may be documented on the informed consent form by the presence of the signature of a witness.
Age 8-13: A more complete oral description of the research (in layman’s terminology) is given to the participant. Verbal assent is requested. The procedure may be documented on the informed consent form by the signature of a witness.
Above age 13: Written assent should be requested from both parent and child, using age-appropriate and background-appropriate documents.
Standard educational practice in school-based research will continue to be based on the superintendent’s requirement for parental consent.
 Adapted from Salem State University IRB Policy