Appendix 2

Parent Letter and Consent Form


Dear Parents:

I am a professor from the Department of Psychology at Erindale College, University of Toronto. I am working with an advanced undergraduate student, Karen Higgins-Biss. We are engaged in a research project that is studying how much children understand about the legal process. In particular, we would like to know whether they understand their rights in dealing with the police. It is unlikely that your child will ever be involved in this situation, but we feel that it is important that all children (and adults) know as much as possible about their legal rights and responsibilities in a criminal law context. We hope that this research will have some practical application. Those working with young persons in legal situations may be better able to help them if they know more about children's understanding of their rights and their abilities to use them.

We would like your permission for your child to take part in a study we are conducting at your child's school. The study is very simple. We will ask your child to imagine a situation in which he or she is suspected by the police of being involved in shoplifting. We will then tell the child what the police would say about the child's rights under law. We will be telling the children, as closely as possible, what the police might actually say in this situation. We will also be showing the children either a waiver form or a statement form that they might be asked to sign. We will then ask the children what they would do under these circumstances and how much they understand about what was said.

Participation is, of course, entirely voluntary. If you agree, we will still ask your child whether he or she wants to take part. The study will be carefully described to the children. The children will be told that they can stop at any time and that they can refuse to answer any questions. They will be assured that their answers will be kept strictly confidential. No record will be made of individual surnames. Children will also be told that this is not a test. For statistical purposes, the children will be asked to identify their parents' jobs and the country where each parent was born.

The study will take about 20 to 30 minutes. It has been approved by your school board, the school principal, and your child's teacher. If you are willing to have your child participate, please sign the enclosed form and send it back to school with your child. The research will be completed by March 1991 and a report will be available by June 1991. If you wish to receive a copy of the report please make a note on the consent form. Thank you very much.


Rona Abramovitch, Ph.D.



I understand that my child will participate in a study involving his/her understanding of his/her rights in dealing with the police in an imaginary situation. I understand that the study will be explained to my child, that his/her participation will be completely voluntary, that he/she will be able to stop at any time, and refuse to answer any questions. I also understand that all information will be strictly confidential. I give my consent for my child, ____________________, to participate in this study.

( child's name )


Name (please print) ______________________________

Signature ________________________________________

Date _____________________________________________

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Copyright 1998, Karen L. Higgins-Biss