Ethical Issues in Researching Black Teenage Mothers with Harmful Childhood Histories: Marginal Voices

Ethics and Social Welfare 7 (1):54-73 (2012)
Abstract
This paper highlights a number of ethical dilemmas encountered in a pilot study with a hard-to-reach group of research participants with harmful childhood histories. Drawing on a project exploring black teenage mothers' understandings of their own childhood experiences of abuse, it is argued that in asking young mothers to talk about such an emotionally sensitive topic as their own harmful childhood, a number of challenges are posed about how to deal with number of key ethical principles. The paper begins by outlining the context of the pilot study, including the research literature on this subject. It then discusses three key ethical principles that were considered during the process of the research: issues of gaining consent; and when the principle of confidentiality ought to be breached when a duty of care prerogative emerges. The paper explores these tensions in operationalising these principles when dealing with the competing needs and rights of gatekeepers, the young women and their carers, using occasional extracts from research findings to illustrate these tensions. The paper concludes with a discussion of the ethical challenges in accessing marginal voices in social research
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James Wong (1997). The “Making” of Teenage Pregnancy. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 11 (3):273 – 288.
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