Youth engagement in research, which involves meaningfully collaborating with youth as full partners in the research process, has contributed to improved research collaborations, enhanced youth participation, and increased motivation for researchers to address scientific questions relevant to youth. Engaging youth as partners in the research process is especially needed in the field of child maltreatment due to the high prevalence of maltreatment, its poor association with health outcomes, and the disempowerment that can occur following exposure to child maltreatment. Although evidence-based approaches for youth engagement in research have been established and applied in other areas such as mental health services, youth engagement in child maltreatment research has been limited. This is particularly disadvantageous to youth exposed to maltreatment as their voices remain absent from research priorities, which contributes to a discrepancy between the research topics that are relevant to youth and those that are pursued by the research community. Using a narrative review approach, we provide an overview of the potential for youth engagement within the field of child maltreatment research, identify barriers to youth engagement, provide trauma-informed strategies for engaging youth in the context of research, and review existing trauma-informed models for youth engagement. This discussion paper suggests that youth engagement in research can contribute to improvements in the design and delivery of mental health care services for youth exposed to traumatic experiences and should be prioritized in future research endeavors. Moreover, it is essential for youth who have historically experienced systemic violence to be engaged and have a voice in research that has the potential to impact policy and practice.
Scientist, CHEO Research Institute