answers yes, the interviewer or an adult the child designates asks follow-up questions to determine whether reportable abuse has occurred. If it has, the child is told how and why a report will be made. If the problem does not appear to be reportable abuse, the child meets with an appropriate adult to discuss personal problems and receives information on local resources and how to obtain future assistance (Kotch, 2000).
In commenting on this approach, ethicist N. King described its benefits and risks to children and their families. The approach protects children and families from the harm that could come from a more liberal reporting approach, including unjustified disruptions in home life and an inadequate or damaging social services intervention. At the same time, the two LONGSCAN studies’ reporting model “privileges research over intervention,” on the assumption that better data will produce better interventions in the future. Yet researchers may be biased in making this determination, she noted. Furthermore, King questioned whether 12-year-olds should be put in the position of deciding whether to discuss their situations with researchers. She asked, “is this a means for adolescents to adopt or respect the values and priorities within their families, or is it a way for LONGSCAN researchers to pass the buck to their adolescent subjects?” (1999:184).
The above LONGSCAN approach could be adapted to elder abuse and neglect studies involving older adults with full or mildly compromised decisional abilities. Investigators could devise measures that enabled them to avoid learning about indications of possible abuse or neglect when study participants refused to discuss these matters. Investigators proposing such a strategy could face opposition from IRBs and others evaluating the ethics of the research, however.
Related issues are presented when elder abuse and neglect research involves surveys or other methods in which participants remain anonymous or research team members are blinded to participants’ responses. These approaches may be attractive because they allow investigators to guarantee confidentiality and avoid the need to devise measures to address suspected abuse and neglect. At the same time, such approaches have been challenged on ethical grounds. For example, the NBAC criticized the Common Rule’s failure to cover anonymous surveys that ask sensitive questions (2001:37). Similarly, ethicists N. King and Larry Churchill raised the following questions about the use of investigator blinding in interview studies of child abuse and neglect: “Might such a research design increase the risk of wrongs or harms to the child subjects who expect to develop some relationship with the researcher who asks such intimate questions? Will anonymity obviate researchers’ feelings of relationship with and obligations toward child subjects or just leave them with information on which they are powerless to act?” (2000:722).
The beneficence principle would support offering assistance to partici-