BACKGROUND: Little is known about why parents agree to take part in randomized controlled trials for adolescent mental health. This study aimed to investigate parents' perspectives on participating in a trial for psychological treatment of depression. The study explored parents' motivations, understanding of the trial and perspectives on the acceptability of the trial.
METHODS: Sixty-five parents took part in this qualitative study. Their adolescent children had been randomly allocated to one of three active psychological treatments for depression as part of the IMPACT trial and were interviewed about their experiences of participating in the study. Semi-structured interviews were analysed using framework analysis.
RESULTS: For seven of the sixty-five parents, their experience of taking part in the trial was not covered in their interview so they were excluded from the analysis. The analysis was therefore based on the data from the parents of 58 adolescents taking part in the trial. The most commonly cited motivation for taking part in the study reported by parents was a desire to help others going through similar difficulties. Parents generally reported finding trial participation acceptable, although there were aspects that some reported finding less acceptable, including randomization and the burden of research assessments. Others spoke positively about the experience of trial participation and found it enjoyable or even therapeutic. Importantly, some did not appear to have a good understanding of the trial design, including randomization and treatment allocation.
CONCLUSIONS: This study indicates that trial participation can be a positive experience for parents, yet it raises concerns about how trialists can ensure that consent is fully informed, given that some parents appeared to have a poor understanding of the trial. Future studies should seek to explore how communication with trial participants can be improved, to ensure that trial participation is fully informed. Patient and public involvement will be crucial in ensuring this communication is accessible to stakeholders.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN registry ISRCTN83033550 . Registered on 15 October 2009.