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Ethical Dilemma Among Child Psychologists

There are several aspects that child psychologists should consider when a child discloses to them about their illicit behavior and requests not to inform his or her parents. The case can contribute to a dilemma when viewing the scenario from different perspectives. In this case, a dilemma refers to a circumstance whereby an individual has two or more options that appear almost the same and are likely to cause undesirable effects. Therefore, the decision for a child psychologist to determine whether or not to disclose a child’s illicit behavior to the parents after a request not to do so can be made using various ethical principles. The ethical principles that should be considered include beneficence, nonmaleficence, respect for patient autonomy, and confidentiality (Stoll et al., 2020).

Beneficence Principle

According to this principle, healthcare providers should only make decisions that benefit the patient. The child psychologist should determine whether informing the parents benefits the child as per the beneficence ethical principle or not (Stoll et al., 2020). In all cases, the healthcare providers should make any decision aiming to promote a patient’s health condition. Therefore, psychologists should make ethical decisions to promote a client’s health and wellness. Therefore, if informing the parents about the child’s illicit behavior would not benefit the client, the child psychologist should not inform them. For example, if the patient is willing to change his or her behavior without involving the parents, it is unnecessary to inform them. In this case, the psychologist will understand whether the client is willing to improve his or her behavior based on how he or she responds to various questions. However, if informing the parents would enable them to support the child to quit the behavior, it is crucial to inform them since the client will eventually benefit.

Nonmaleficence Principle

The second ethical principle that the child psychologist should consider in understanding whether or not to disclose information about the child’s illicit behavior to the parents is the nonmaleficence principle. This principle advises healthcare providers to avoid making decisions that may pose potential harm to the patient (Ventura et al., 2021). Therefore, child psychology should determine whether informing the child’s behavior to the parents would have any harm to the client. In this case, the psychologist should first understand the strength of the relationship between the parents and the child. If the parents have been too friendly or too unfriendly to the child, it is unnecessary to inform them about the child’s illicit behavior. This is because their strong relationship may be ruined or their unfriendly relationship might be worse, thus posing danger to the child.


Moreover, the ethical principle regarding respect for patient autonomy is also critical in the scenario presented. This ethical principle recommends that healthcare providers should always respect the decision made by the patients. Therefore, the child psychologist should respect the information given by the client (Ventura et al., 2021). It requires much courage and trust for a patient to be open and inform healthcare providers about their illicit behavior. Therefore, the healthcare provider should not betray the patient by disclosing the information to the third party, regardless of the client’s age. Disclosing the information to anyone might not only ruin the relationship between the psychologist and the client, but also contribute to legal actions.


Lastly, the other ethical principle that would be applied in the scenario provided is confidentiality. This ethical principle requires that healthcare providers should keep patient health information private and confidential and not to disclose it to any other person (Bloch et al., 2022). Failing to adhere to this principle can lead to legal actions since the patient should always be protected and his or her information kept safe. In general, the client’s parent can only be informed if the child would benefit by disclosing the information.


Bloch, S., Kenn, F., & Lim, I. (2022). Codes of ethics for psychiatrists: past, present and prospect. Psychological Medicine52(7), 1201-1207.

Stoll, J., Müller, J. A., & Trachsel, M. (2020). Ethical issues in online psychotherapy: A narrative review. Frontiers in psychiatry10, 993.

Ventura, C. A. A., Austin, W., Carrara, B. S., & de Brito, E. S. (2021). Nursing care in mental health: Human rights and ethical issues. Nursing ethics28(4), 463-480.


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