Subjective Reactions to International Research Participation: An Illustration of Ethical Considerations With Women Heading Households in Sri Lanka

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Abstract

here are unique ethical considerations in conducting international research with war and disaster-affected populations that are important for ensuring adequate protection of participants. Of particular importance is the distress that participants may experience as a result of being asked about traumatic stressors, psychological symptoms, and life problems. In this study, trauma-affected Tamil women in Eastern Sri Lanka were asked to report on their research-participation experience after taking part in a larger study on risk and resiliency. Results indicated that most participants experienced emotional upset as a result of taking part in the study. However, the degree of distress was generally not more than they anticipated, and most participants reported they would have participated had they known in advance how they would feel. Most participants perceived some benefit as a result of participating and agreed that items were personally relevant. Emotional distress from participation positively correlated with culturally specific symptoms of anxiety and depression. Contextual stressors and social support were not associated with participation-related distress. We discuss these findings as well as general issues that might arise in international research with trauma-affected populations.

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