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Ethical Research Involving Children

Methodological and ethical issues related to studying child maltreatment.

Socolar, R. R. S., Runyan, D. K., & Amaya-Jackson, L. (1995). Methodological and ethical issues related to studying child maltreatment. Journal of Family Issues, 16(5). pp. 565-586.

Abstract: Research about child abuse and neglect is very complex methodologically and ethically. There are not yet uniform research definitions of the problem and the lack of prospective population-based research limits the ability to make progress. To date researchers have been reluctant to ask children directly about their maltreatment experiences because of perceptions of ethical and legal responsibilities. This article begins with a brief review of existing research about the scope and consequences of child abuse and neglect. We address methodological considerations that are especially pertinent to research about child maltreatment, including the definition of the problem, study design, and issues of causality and bias. We conclude with a discussion of ethical and legal issues that arise in the course of carrying out such research, including issues related to subject recruitment, informed consent, confidentiality, and reporting. (The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in the Journal of Family Issues, 16/5, 09/1995 by SAGE Publications, Inc., All rights reserved. © Sage Publications Inc.)

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