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Negotiating Ethical Paradoxes in Conducting a Randomized Controlled Trial Aligning Intervention Science With Participatory Values

NCJ Number
American Journal of Community Psychology Volume: 60 Issue: 3-4 Dated: 2017 Pages: 439-449
Shabnam Jaydani; Sukhmani Singh; Corianna E. Sichel
Date Published
October 2017
11 pages
This article discusses the ethical tensions the authors faced in the context of their work as intervention scientists, whose goal has been to promote social justice and change systems that impact girls involved in the juvenile legal system.

At their core, the ethical tensions were about resisting collusion with systems of control while simultaneously collaborating with them. Over the course of designing and implementing a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of an ecological advocacy intervention for girls, called ROSES, ethical paradoxes crystalized and prompted the authors to engage in critical reflection and action toward the goal of moving away from conducting research on legal system involved girls and moving toward a more democratic, participatory process of inquiry with girls. This experience revealed two intertwined paradoxes that ultimately served generative purposes. First, in collaborating with legal system stakeholders, the researchers observed a single story of girls of pathology narrated for girls, without girls, and ultimately internalized by girls. Second, in reflecting critically on the ethical implications of the study design, it became clear that the design was grounded in a medical model of inquiry, although the intervention being evaluated was based, in part, on resistance to the medical model. The researchers describe emergent ethical tensions and the solutions they sought, which centered on creating counter narratives and counter spaces that leveraged, extended, and disrupted their existing RCT. These solutions focused on how the researchers restructured the research team to enhance structural competence, shifted the subject of inquiry to include the systems in which youth were embedded, and created new opportunities for former research participants to become co-researchers through formal roles on an advisory board. (publisher abstract modified)