Assessing Children's Ability to Give Consent


  • Maurice Place Northumbria University
  • Richard W. Barker Northumbria University


consent, children, Gillick competence


This paper explores the important issue of children's ability to give consent, via the development of a focussed questionnaire relating to medical matters. A questionnaire in relation to common 'medical issues' was developed from interviews with children and was then given to a sample of 201 children aged 11 and 12 years. The results were compared to those from a group of 245 university students. Of the three sections of the questionnaire, definitions and forced choices showed some ability to discriminate between adults and children, but using the method of ranking of choices did not. Selecting the elements with highest discriminatory power produced a scale that showed good effect size which would be worthy of further exploration and use. It is clear that determining a child's competence to consent is a challenging but necessary task. Whilst 'objective measures' cannot give a simple answer this study indicates that they have potential to assist in relation to the exercise of professional judgment in this area.

Author Biographies

Maurice Place, Northumbria University

Professor of Child & Family Psychiatry, Cheviot House, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Richard W. Barker, Northumbria University

Professor of Child Welfare, School of Health, Community and Education Studies, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, UK.