How and why should we engage parents as co-researchers in health research? A scoping review of current practices
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BACKGROUND: The importance of engaging parents in health research as co-researchers is gaining growing recognition. While a number of benefits of involving parents as co-researchers have been proposed, guidelines on exactly how effective engagement can be achieved are lacking. The objectives of this scoping review were to (i) synthesize current evidence on engaging parents as co-researchers in health research; (ii) identify the potential benefits and challenges of engaging parent co-researchers; and (iii) identify gaps in the literature. METHODS: A scoping literature review was conducted using established methodology. Four research databases and one large grey literature database were searched, in addition to hand-searching relevant journals. Articles meeting specific inclusion criteria were retrieved and data extracted. Common characteristics were identified and summarized. RESULTS: Ten articles were included in the review, assessed as having low-to-moderate quality. Parent co-researchers were engaged in the planning, design, data collection, analysis and dissemination aspects of research. Structural enablers included reimbursement and childcare. Benefits of engaging parent co-researchers included enhancing the relevance of research to the target population, maximizing research participation and parent empowerment. Challenges included resource usage, wide-ranging experiences, lack of role clarity and power differences between parent co-researchers and researchers. Evaluation of parent co-researcher engagement was heterogeneous and lacked rigour. CONCLUSIONS: A robust evidence base is currently lacking in how to effectively engage parent co-researchers. However, the review offers some insights into specific components that may form the basis of future research to inform the development of best practice guidelines.
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