PROTECTION OF HUMAN SUBJECTS PARTICIPATING IN THE

INTERNATIONAL DATING VIOLENCE RESEARCH STUDY

 

Murray A. Straus

Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire

Durham, NH 03824  603-862-2594  murray.straus@unh.edu

http://pubpages.unh.edu/~mas2

 

 

1. The procedures to review the project in respect to protecting the rights, privacy, and safety of the participants must follow the regulations of the institution of the site co-investigator (SCI).

 

 

2. The University of New Hampshire human subjects Board requires the following:

 

            * The cover page of the questionnaire, and any oral instructions must include all the elements in U.S. version, including the statement that “Participation in this study is strictly voluntary, and you are not obligated to complete the questionnaire.”

 

            * Since the risk of harm depends on local customs and circumstances, each SCI needs to use locally appropriate procedures to minimize the risk to participants.

 

            * When administering the questionnaire, participants should be seated with a minimum of one empty seat between them to protect confidentiality of responses.

 

            * The SCI agrees not to collect any data until the project has been reviewed and approved, and a copy of the statement signed by the person responsible for the review has been sent to the Principle Investigator who will forward it to the University of New Hampshire Board responsible for reviewing research involving human subjects.

 

 

3. Material For Review Of The Study At Each Site

 

            The following material is based on information that was submitted to the University of New Hampshire review board.  Your institution may require other information, and may not require some of this.

 

            Objectives. The higher risk of violence by a dating partner is not generally recognized despite the fact that the higher rate has been demonstrated by over 50 studies, starting in the 1980’s (Stets and Straus 1989; Sugarman and Hotaling 1989).  For purposes of primary-prevention (Cowen 1978; O'Leary and Sweet Jemmott 1995), it is vital to increase recognition and understanding of the etiology of dating-couple violence because the behavior at that point in the life-cycle can establish patterns that persist over a lifetime.  This research will contribute to that end by providing data on the following questions:

 

            1. What is the extent of the following four aspects of partner violence:

                        Physical Assault

                        Physical Injury

                        Psychological Aggression

                        Sexual Coercion

 

            2. What variables explain why violence occurs in the relationship of some couples and not in the relationship of other couples?

 

            3. To what extent do the results found for 1 and 2 above apply in each of the participating countries.

 

 

Questionnaire.  The questionnaire has three main parts:  Demographic information such as age and sex, the Partner and Relationships Profile to measure “risk factors”  for violence against a dating partner, and the Revised Conflict Tactics Scales to obtain data on the extent to which there was violence in the relationship.  The Conflict Tactics Scales and the Partner and Relationships Profile are standardized instruments for which there is evidence of reliability and validity.  (Straus 1990; Straus et al. 1999; Straus et al. 1996; Straus and Mouradian 1999).  The Conflict Tactics Scales have been successfully used in research in about 40 countries.

 

            Research Procedure. The participants will be students in undergraduate courses.  At the start of a class period, the objectives of the study will be explained to the students (see Informed Consent section below), and their help in providing information on these questions by answering a questionnaire will be requested.  They will be told that participation is entirely voluntary, and that they are free to decide if they want to answer the questionnaire or not.  They will also be told that they can omit answering any question they choose to omit, or discontinue answering the questionnaire at any time.

 

            The students will be asked to not sign their name or provide any other identification.  If they decide to answer the questionnaire, the instructions will tell them to put the questionnaire in a covered box near the exit door when they have finished and leave. They will also be told that if they choose not to answer the questionnaire, to put the blank questionnaire in the same covered box at the front of the room and leave, and that no one will know whether or not they have completed the questionnaire.

 

Risks.  Some subjects may feel remorseful about disclosing what they might have done to their partner, or angry about what their partner has done to them, or become concerned about some other aspect of their behavior or background.  Such remorse, anger, or concern is part of the ordinary life experience of persons who have these behaviors or experiences.  Consequently, completing this instrument does not put subjects at any greater risk than they experience in the normal course of their lives.  The safety of these procedures to be used is indicated by the fact that the Conflict Tactics Scales part of the questionnaire has been used with over 8000 subjects by the principal investigator with no known problems.  More than 300 articles and at least five books reporting findings from the CTS have been published and we know of none which reports harm to participating subjects.

 

The specific questionnaire to be given to student participating in this study, and the procedures for giving the questionnaire, have been reviewed and approved by the human subjects protection board of the University of New Hampshire.  The questionnaire has been used with more than a thousand students at three institutions in the USA, and no problems have been encountered.

 

 As a result of taking this test, some subjects may realize that they need help with a personal or relationship problem.  Consequently, as each participant puts their questionnaire in the closed box, they will be given a page that contains the names, addresses, and phone numbers of organizations they can contact  for help, such as community mental health centers, battered women’s shelters, and university counseling centers.  The list will be preceded by a paragraph explaining that everyone needs help from time to time, and that these organizations are eager to provide that help.

 

            Confidentiality. The safety of the participants is further assured by privacy and confidentiality.  All responses will be anonymous and subjects will not be asked to give their names on any form.  The large numbers of subjects involved makes it unlikely that demographic information could be used to identify a particular subject.

 

            Benefits. A study and review of previous research by Bradbury (Bradbury 1994)

shows that many subjects benefit from the opportunity provided by a research interview or questionnaire to review the nature of their marriage or other relationship (Bradbury 1994).  In addition, as explained, above, the participants will each receive a list of locally available sources of help with relationship problems and psychological problems that answering the questionnaire may have brought to their attention.

 

            Informed Consent.  Only subjects who are 18 years old or older will studied.

 

            Informed consent will be obtained verbally to avoid any documents containing the name of the participant.  This provides maximum confidentiality and anonymity.  The informed consent consists of a statement on the cover page of the questionnaire that says that the purpose of the study is to find out about relationships between dating partners.  It will say that the questionnaire includes questions which ask about their relationships with their current dating, cohabiting, or martial partner, and about their own family background and personality.   They will also be told that some of the questions are about sexual relations.  All subjects will be informed that participation is entirely voluntary, and that they may omit any question or discontinue at any time.  As explained in the Research Procedure section, students who decide on the basis of the information provided that they do not wish to participate simply turn in the blank questionnaire and leave the room.

 

REFERENCES

 

Bradbury, T. N. 1994. "Unintended effects of marital research on marital relationships." Journal of Family Psychology 8:187-201.

Cowen, Emory. 1978. "Demystifying primary prevention." Pp. Chapter 2 in Primary Prevention of Psychopathology, edited by Donald G. Forgays. Hanover, NH: University of New England Press.

O'Leary, Ann, and Loretta Sweet Jemmott (Eds.). 1995. Women at risk: Issues in the primary prevention of AIDS. New York: Plenum Press.

Stets, J. E., and Murray A. Straus. 1989. "The marriage license as a hitting license: A comparison of assaults in dating, cohabiting, and married couples." Journal of Family Violence 4:161-180.

Straus, Murray A. 1990. "The conflict tactics scales and its critics: An evaluation and new data on validity and reliability." Pp. 49-73 in Physical violence in American families: Risk factors and adaptations to violence in 8,145 families, edited by Murray A. Straus and Richard J. Gelles. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publications.

Straus, Murray A., Sherry L. Hamby, Sue Boney-McCoy, and David Sugarman. 1999. "The personal and relationships profile (PRP)." Durham, NH: Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire.

Straus, Murray A., Sherry L. Hamby, Susan Boney-McCoy, and David B. Sugarman. 1996. "The revised Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS2): Development and preliminary psychometric data." Journal of Family Issues 17:283-316.

Straus, Murray A., and Vera E. Mouradian. 1999. "Preliminary psychometric data for the personal and relationships profile (PRP):  A multi-scale tool for clinical screening and research on partner violence." Presented at the American Society of Criminology, November 19, 1999, Toronto, Ontario.

Sugarman, David B., and Gerald T. Hotaling. 1989. "Dating violence: Prevalence, context, and risk markers." Pp. 3-31 in Violence in dating relationships:  Emerging social issues, edited by A. A. Pirog-Good and J. E. Stets. New York: Praeger.