BOX 2-2
Variables Requiring Operational Definition in Research Involving Elder Mistreatment

  1. Who is an older person?

  2. What constitutes a trust relationship between an older and another person?

  3. What is the relevant conduct of the “other” person in the trust relationship?

  4. What harms has the older person experienced (or what dangers were created as a result of the conduct of the person in the trust relationship)?

  5. Does this combination of conduct and harm constitute mistreatment, as that term has been defined in the study?

  6. What are the risk and protective factors associated with the occurrence of mistreatment? Specifically, what aspects of the older person’s condition make him or her more or less vulnerable to mistreatment?

  7. What are the outcomes of mistreatment or of interventions aiming to prevent it?

person?” and “Does the relationship meet the definition of being a trust relationship?”)

It is necessary to measure the relevant conduct (what was done or not done) of the other person, to assess whether or not the elder has been harmed, and, if so, to determine whether what the other person has done or not done has caused the harm. The definition of the relevant conduct and harm is a complex undertaking in that it is not always possible to anticipate in advance all conduct and consequences that might be of interest. Furthermore, in the process of assessment while in the field, it is highly unlikely that the conduct in question will be directly observable to those conducting the research and is therefore likely to be evaluated indirectly. This is often true for harms as well. Thus an operational definition of conduct and harm should contain a general description of the kinds of conduct and consequences that may be of interest as well as a description of the process used to determine the occurrence of relevant conduct and harms, constructed so that they can be assessed both directly and indirectly.

Determining whether a particular conduct caused a particular harm will not be necessary in most studies, especially those using survey methods. However, this task may be necessary in some studies, especially those relating to the factors that differentiate, clinically, between inadvertent injuries and intentional ones (see Chapter 6.). In some cases, when direct observation is available, it is possible to state unequivocally that a specific conduct caused the injury. For example, if a caregiver hits an elder on her upper right arm and there is a bruise where there the elder was struck, causality for the bruise is clear. However, if the elder also is anxious and scared, under what circumstances can one conclude that the striking of the arm caused these psychological consequences? Furthermore, if the elder has

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