Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ethics in Research

According to Santrock (2008) and the American Counseling Association (ACA) (2005), when conducting research in human development, the primary consideration is protecting the rights of participants. Santrock (2008) warned that the potential harm in such research is not always apparent. Informed consent, confidentiality, debriefing, and deception are considerations in the ethical treatment of the individuals who participate in research. Keeping participants informed of every aspect of their participation is critical and directed by the ACA (2005) Section G.2.a. Data related to participants must be kept confidential and anonymous when appropriate, and after the study is complete, participants should be apprised of pertinent information regarding the study, its purpose and methods (Santrock, 2008). Regarding deception, the ACA (2005) advises counselors against conducting research that is deceptive unless there is no other way to continue, but if there is any chance the deception would be harmful to the participants, the study should be discontinued. Santrock (2008) claimed the issue of transparency is controversial, but regardless of the research value, it should only be undertaken when it will not harm its participants.

According to the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (1996), counselors must work toward cultural competence that includes understanding how "oppression, racism, discrimination, and stereotyping affect them personally and in their work" (p. 1). Refraining from bias supports valuable research, however, overgeneralizations about gender, culture, or ethnicity renders research tainted with stereotype and inaccurate information. Researchers must refrain from dwelling on preconceived ideas of the populations or events they study and from inappropriately aggrandizing some details over others (Santrock, 2008).

For example, applying research on women that was normed with an all male population would be unethical and inaccurate and may create widespread stereotyping (Santrock, 2008). Equally unethical and inaccurate would be making judgments on a diverse population with norms obtained from a different population. Additional considerations for researching human development include scrutinizing data gathering methods and designing research that honestly and fairly observes and records behavior, researches the relationship between characteristics or events, or assesses cause and effect. Certainly from a cross-cultural perspective, various and diverse populations should be included in research whose findings may eventually be applied to members of those diverse groups (Santrock, 2008).

Another way to reduce gender bias must include working toward removing bias in the systems that support scholarly research. For example, Easterly & Ricard, (2011) discussed the challenge of women in the system of academic research that does not integrate the typical roles of women with the usual expectations of scholarly researchers. If the bias is systemic, the removal of it in gender and in race is far more difficult for the sole researcher. Although gender and racial bias occur daily, it is important for mental health researchers to identify and address it in themselves as well as in the larger systems within which they work (Easterly & Ricard, 2011).

Regarding gender bias in research, Nauert (2006) suggests when psychological professionals engage in research, they should "think deeply about the ways that we implicitly frame questions about whose behavior is the default standard norm and whose is made the subject of psychological scrutiny" (para. 6). A similar statement could be made about default standard norms that are inappropriately applied to diverse populations in research as well.

The ACA (2005) instructed counselors to minimize bias and honor diversity when engaging in research and do so in a manner that complies with all applicable laws and standards that govern research. The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) (2010) advised professionals engaged in research do so in a manner that will maintain and increase the respect, integrity, and knowledge base of the counseling profession and human welfare" (p. 16).


American Counseling Association (2005). Code of Ethics. Retrieved from

American Mental Health Counselors Association (2010). AMHCA Code of Ethics. Retrieved from pagination_cxd_51110.pdf

Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development. (1996). AMCD multicultural counseling competencies. Retrieved from

Easterly, D. M., & Ricard, C. S. (2011). Conscious Efforts to End Unconscious Bias: Why Women Leave Academic Research. Journal of Research Administration, 42(1), 61-73.

Nauert, R. (2006). Male gender bias in psychology research continues. Psych Central. Retrieved September 9, 2012, from

Santrock, J. W. (2011). A topical approach to life-span development (3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

No comments:

Post a Comment