What type of survey research questions are identified by adults as upsetting? A focus on child maltreatment
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BACKGROUND: Research on child maltreatment is imperative to inform evidence-based prevention and intervention efforts. Nonetheless, researchers continue to face barriers due to the perceived sensitivity and possibility of harm when asking about these experiences. While studies have started to explore reactions to participating in research on sensitive topics, there are notable limitations and fewer have focused on child maltreatment. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to better understand adult respondents' identification of, and reactions to, potentially upsetting questions in the context of a well-being and experiences survey, with a focus on child maltreatment. METHODS: Data were from the first wave of the Well-Being and Experiences Study in Manitoba, Canada: a computerized self-reported community-based survey of adolescents and their parents/caregivers administered individually at a research facility. The current study focused on parents/caregivers' responses (N = 1000). The study utilized a mixed methods approach with descriptive statistics and qualitative thematic analyses of open-ended responses of their perceptions of upsetting questions. RESULTS: Overall, few respondents (15.1 %) identified any questions as upsetting. Ten themes emerged in respondents' recall of upsetting questions, including maltreatment and other themes often perceived as less sensitive. Only 4% identified maltreatment-related questions as upsetting. Among those who identified any questions or maltreatment-specific questions as upsetting, most felt they were important to ask and should not be removed (92.7 %-97.5 %). These findings suggest that retrospective survey questions about experiences of child maltreatment involving adult samples are not associated with major upset and should be included in future health and social surveys.
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