This month we published an important paper that examines the issue of participant distress in child maltreatment surveys. The paper, led by Professor Mathews, includes key co-authors from Canada as well as other members of the ACMS team.

In this paper we address the tension between the need for maltreatment research with the ethical obligation to prevent distress and ensure research beneficence. A thorough review of the literature shows that frequency and severity of participant distress from maltreatment surveys is low and such distress is transitory. We argue that with attention to design and implementation protocols researchers can meet ethical obligations. Furthermore we outline that legal liability does not extend to distress. The paper ends with a number of principles that can be used to design and implement maltreatment surveys to minimise and adequately respond to distress. The paper has significant international relevance for researchers conducting maltreatment research.

The reference for the paper is below. It will become open access shortly. If you would like a copy please email

Mathews, B., MacMillan, H. L., Meinck, F., Finkelhor, D., Haslam, D., Tonmyr, L., Gonzalez, A., Afifi, T. O., Scott, J. G., Pacella, R. E., Higgins, D., Thomas, H., Collin-Vézina, D., & Walsh, K. (2022). The ethics of child maltreatment surveys in relation to participant distress: Implications of social science evidence, ethical guidelines, and law. Child Abuse & Neglect.