Ethical Considerations in Conducting Family Violence Research

Berry, Vashti Louise (2009) Ethical Considerations in Conducting Family Violence Research. Research Ethics, 5 (3). pp. 91-100. ISSN 1747-0161

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There is a lack of procedure in the UK guiding social researchers faced with ethical questions. In particular, investigators concerned with family violence and its effects on children face some of the most complex ethical dilemmas in social research and there is a need for greater transparency of ethical procedures.

This paper summarizes some key ethical principles guiding social research focused on children, and the decisions that researchers face when conducting studies in the area of child maltreatment or domestic violence. A case example of a study conducted in Dublin, Ireland is used to illustrate difficulties surrounding decisions of informed consent, confidentiality and disclosure, distress and danger, and questioning children directly about their experiences of family violence. The advice of the ethics committee and the solutions agreed by the research team are shared.

While the study was subject to a review by an independent ethics committee, in the absence of nationally-recognized or agreed guidelines, good ethical practice is largely dependent upon the moral judgments of the research team. It is hoped that by providing one such case example, others might be encouraged to report on their own ethical protocols and procedures.

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