Perceptions of Participation in Trauma Research among Older Adults.

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology, Graduate School of Social Work


Trauma, Older adults, Research ethics, Responses to research participation


The need for rigorous research on the risk and consequences of older adult abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation—especially from the perspectives of older adults themselves—has become more imperative as the population in the United States rapidly ages. Researchers have previously demonstrated that trauma-focused research can be conducted ethically; however, researchers have not directly assessed perceived benefits and costs of trauma-focused research among older adult participants. The current study addresses the gap in the literature by examining perceived benefit-to-cost ratios related to participating in a trauma-focused research protocol in a community sample of adults over the age of 60. The sample included 99 ethnically diverse older adults (aged 60–86, mean age = 69.8). Participants’ ratings on the Response to Research Participation Questionnaire (RRPQ) documented a positive benefit-to-cost ratio, demonstrating that older adults’ perceptions of benefits of participating in research outweighed the costs; effect sizes were large. When examining the relationship between symptom distress and perceptions of research participation, PTSD and depressive symptoms were associated with greater emotional reactions. Overall, the findings of the current study demonstrate that, within the context of mindful interview and screening procedures, asking older adults about trauma and maltreatment may be conducted within a favorable benefit-to-cost ratio. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

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