Parental consent: A potential barrier for underage teens' participation in an mHealth mental health intervention

Patricia Cavazos-Rehg, Caroline Min, Ellen E. Fitzsimmons-Craft, Bria Savoy, Nina Kaiser, Raven Riordan, Melissa Krauss, Shaina Costello, Denise Wilfley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Purpose: We sought to examine whether underage adolescents displaying symptoms for a mental illness (i.e., an eating disorder) would be willing to obtain parental consent to participate in a study to test the efficacy of an evidence-based mobile mental health intervention targeting teens with eating disorders. Methods: The participants (n = 366) were 15 to 17 year-old English-speakers who post or follow social media accounts on Instagram that emphasize being thin as important or attractive. The participants were administered a survey through Qualtrics to assess eating disorder pathology, interest in trying an evidence-based mobile mental-health intervention, and comfort level with obtaining parental consent to partake in a research study about such an intervention. Results: About 85% of participants met clinical or subclinical criteria for an eating disorder; however, only 12% had received a treatment within the past six months. While 83% of participants were interested in trying a mobile health interventions app, only 35% indicated willingness to obtain parental consent to participate in a research study. The primary reasons presented for unwillingness to obtain consent included importance of retaining privacy and feeling that parents lack awareness or understanding about mental health issues. Conclusions: While barriers exist to obtaining treatment for eating disorders, a mobile intervention app may close some of these gaps. Many underage participants indicated interest in obtaining such treatment, yet only a third were willing to obtain parental consent. Future studies should investigate how to reduce these barriers to obtaining parental consent to facilitate teen access to research and mobile mental health treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100328
JournalInternet Interventions
StatePublished - Sep 2020


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