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Researcher wellbeing and secondary trauma: A theoretical framework and protocol to improve practice and teaching

Wed, September 6, 5:30 to 6:45pm, Palazzo Congressi, Floor: second floor, Congressi 10


Research ethics procedures have substantially improved over the last three decades; but despite this researchers’ wellbeing is often overlooked in methods teaching/ethics committees. This is particularly concerning when researching topics that may cause secondary trauma for the researcher such as criminal offences or criminal justice responses. The British Psychological Society (2020) state that the symptoms of secondary trauma are alike to the symptoms of posttraumatic stress ‘disorder’ felt by a victim-survivor of a direct traumatic event. Secondary trauma can be experienced at any time in a research project, including interviews, coding quantitative/qualitative data, reviewing the literature or during policy campaigning. Symptoms of secondary trauma include distressing thoughts, avoidance, limited concentration/sleep, and alterations in mood. This paper draws on decades of research/teaching experience across a team of researchers (see Skinner et al, forthcoming), and a review of existent literature, to adapt Bronfenbrenner’s (1994, 2005) ecological model to aid understanding of how secondary trauma in research can be addressed and to develop a protocol to help individuals, managers/supervisors, institutions, national governments and international bodies reduce researcher risk and enhance their wellbeing.

British Psychological Society 2020. Taking trauma related work home: Advice for reducing the likelihood of secondary trauma, [online]
Bronfenbrenner, U., 1994. Ecological Models of Human Development. In International Encyclopaedia of Education, Vol. 3, 2nd Ed. Oxford: Elsevier. Reprinted in: Gauvain, M. and Cole, M., (Eds.), Readings on the Development of Children, 2nd Ed. (1993, pp.37-43). New York: W. H. Freeman and Company Harvard University Press.
Bronfenbrenner, U., 2005. Making Human Beings Human: Bioecological Perspectives on Human Development. London: Sage.
Skinner, T., Bloomfield-Utting, J, Geoghegan-Fittall, S., Roberts (ne Ballantyne), N., Smith, O., Sweetland, S. and Taylor, H. (forthcoming) A focus on ethics and researcher wellbeing, In Forester-Jones, R. (Ed) Research Handbook on Ethics in Social Research, Edward Elgar Publishing.