Background: Research on epidemiological assessment of interpersonal violence in younger adults indicates that there are essential components of interview-based queries necessary to maximize the likelihood that episodes of physical and sexual assault will be identified. These include phrasing to prime comprehensive disclosure, combined with extremely behaviorally specific descriptive questions about assault events. Such methodology permits simultaneous assessment of violence perpetrated by intimates or caregivers (i. e., abuse) as well as that perpetrated by strangers (i. e., assault), and is easily conducted via telephone. However, these strategies have not been used to simultaneously measure both abuse and assault in older adults, and some question exists as to the applicability of telephone interview techniques to geriatric populations.
Methods: A total of 106 elder respondents were surveyed, approximately half in person and half via the telephone, to evaluate the feasibility of using a telephone-based structured interview to measure both assault and abuse, as well as to screen for psychopathology in a geriatric population. In order to assure that a sufficient number of crime victims were available to assess the ability of dependent measures to detect a variety of abuse and assault types, approximately half of the group in each interview context was comprised of a victim oversample referred by local police departments, whereas the remainder of each group were randomly selected from local telephone directories.
Results: Data indicated that the methodology was successfully adapted to the geriatric population. Rates of lifetime and recent abuse and assault detected by in-person and telephone methods were comparable, and medical problems associated with aging posed no significant problem.
Conclusions: The methodology was acceptable to older adults and very effective in identifying both abuse and assault events, perpetrator status, and psychopathology. Telephone-based interviewing appeared to be a valid alternative to in-person interviews in identifying victimization and psychopathology.