The Risks, Benefits, and Ethics of Trauma-Focused Research Participation

Ethics and Behavior 20 (6):429-442 (2010)
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With the rising interest in the field of trauma research, many Institutional Review Boards, policymakers, parents, and others grapple with the impact of trauma-research participation on research participants' well-being. Do individuals who participate in trauma-focused research risk experiencing lasting negative effects from participation? What are the potential benefits that may be gleaned from participation in this work? How can trauma research studies be designed ethically, minimizing the risk to participants? The following review seeks to answer these questions. This review indicates that most studies in this area have found that only a minority of participants experience distress when participating in trauma-focused research. Furthermore, these negative feelings tend to dissipate quickly over time, with the majority of participants self-appraising their participation as positive, rewarding, and beneficial to society. Design characteristics that may serve to minimize participants' risk of experiencing distress are discussed, as well as implications for public policy and future research



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