Methodological and Ethical Dilemmas Encountered during Field Research of Family Violence Experienced by Adolescent Women in Buenos Aires

Article excerpt

This article was designed from examining field notes and forums held by a team of researchers from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina who participated in an academic project focused on family violence during the stages of pregnancy and childbirth in adolescent females. (1) Basically, it was conceived on behalf of other researchers involved in the social sciences, since the purpose is to share the "behind the scenes" of the research. This includes the discussion of topics that arose while planning and conducting the study, which were rarely found in methodological books and not always detailed in the final reports. We will expose some obstacles and dilemmas related to methodological strategies and ethical considerations implemented during the field work of the research in order to contribute some reflections and research suggestions in the arena of qualitative and mixed methods inquiry in the social sciences.

The field work was performed at the Adolescence, Pediatrics, and Neonatology Service Room of Internment of a public hospital and a health centre in Buenos Aires Area (which includes the city itself and 24 outlying districts) from 2006 to 2008. The research was supported by the active participation and commitment of the professionals working for these services as well as members of the staff of the Consultative Office of Family Violence at the Hospital.

The researchers drew on initial data and analyses from a larger work on adolescent females. In a previous study, Colombo et al., (2005), claimed that the incidence of violence in 15 to 19 year-old adolescents who consulted the Maternal and Obstetric Service of a Public Hospital reached 22%. These results indicated the remarkable incidence of family violence associated with adolescent pregnancy among young women in Buenos Aires. The study also strongly suggested that this at-risk group was a population worthy of study, given the complexity of pregnancy during adolescence, a situation even more serious when considering the existence of a violent environment (Colombo et al.,). The study triggered new research and an examination of methodological dilemmas, which is the focus of this article.

A brief summary of the objectives, design, and results will be described in the following section. Then we will discuss the focus of this article, what we refer to as the "behind the scenes" of research.

Research-En-Scene

Background

As literature has shown, violence against women affects millions, including those who are pregnant or have recently given birth (Colombo, Ynoub, Viglizzo, Veneranda, & Iglesias, 2006; Kendall-Tacket, 2007). As many authors have mentioned (Ball, Kerig, & Rosenbluth, 2009; Banyard & Cross, 2008; Noonan & Charles, 2009), the violence suffered by adolescent females is associated with multiple risk behaviors such as negative health outcomes, suicidal thoughts, risk of depression, post traumatic stress disorder, higher levels of anxiety, and repressed feelings associated with the trauma. Moreover, during pregnancy, an adolescent who has experienced past or current abuse has an increased risk of pre- and neonatal complications, which in turn can affect relationships with others and bring on a sense of social isolation, a lack of social support, and the cessation of breastfeeding.

Even though increasing attention has been given to the problem of violence against women and the consequences affecting their daily lives, more research is needed in this area. In this sense we believe that qualitative inquiry through testimonies, interviews, and other strategies plays a central role in presenting the voices of marginalized women coping with such difficult situations.

Objectives

The objectives of the research were: (a) to determine the prevalence of family violence and/or partnership violence experienced by adolescent females in the stages of pregnancy and childbirth; (b) to explore the strategies of response to the situations of mistreatment developed by the adolescents in the previously mentioned objective; and (c) to recognize the predominant models of gender in the familial organization of these adolescents. …

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