Journal Article

Adding Evidence to the Ethics Debate: Investigating Parents' Experiences of Their Participation in Research

David Westlake and Donald Forrester

in The British Journal of Social Work

Volume 46, issue 6, pages 1537-1552
Published in print September 2016 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online November 2015 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcv101
Adding Evidence to the Ethics Debate: Investigating Parents' Experiences of Their Participation in Research

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All research requires ethical scrutiny of the harm it may cause participants, yet we know relatively little about the actual experiences of service users who participate. This paper explores the views of parents and carers (n = 97) involved in an English study into outcomes for children known to Children's Services. Nearly all participants (96 per cent) who took part in two research interviews reported being glad they took part, and none expressed regret. Some participants (31 per cent) felt the interviews were difficult or upsetting to some degree, but most of these (90 per cent) also felt that talking to the researcher helped them with their problems. Indeed, parents who reported finding interviews upsetting were more likely to also find them helpful. We suggest that research needs to be considered as a form of intervention, rather than imagined as observing without influencing, and that as such it is necessary to balance both potential advantages and possible risks. Consequently, ethics committees need to focus on study design and the quality of interaction. This requires a focus on supporting researchers to not only ‘do no harm’, but to help people where possible. It also requires evaluation of the impact of research to be built into ethical study design.

Keywords: Harm; research ethics; service user participation

Journal Article.  6919 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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