Ethical reporting of research on violence against women and children: a review of current practice and recommendations for future guidelines

BMJ Glob Health. 2023 May;8(5):e011882. doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2023-011882.


Changes in research practice during the COVID-19 pandemic necessitates renewed attention to ethical protocols and reporting for data collection on sensitive topics. This review summarises the state of ethical reporting among studies collecting violence data during early stages of the pandemic. We systematically searched for journal publications from the start of the pandemic to November 2021, identifying 75 studies that collected primary data on violence against women and/or violence against children. We developed and applied a 14-item checklist of best practices to assess the transparency of ethics reporting and adherence to relevant global guidelines on violence research. Studies reported adhering to best practices on 31% of scored items. Reporting was highest for ethical clearance (87%) and informed consent/assent (84/83%) and lowest for whether measures to promote interviewer safety and support (3%), for facilitating referrals for minors and soliciting participant feedback were in place (both 0%). Violence studies employing primary data collection during COVID-19 reported on few ethical standards, obscuring stakeholder ability to enforce a 'do no harm' approach and to assess the reliability of findings. We offer recommendations and guidelines to improve future reporting and implementation of ethics within violence studies.

Keywords: COVID-19; Child health; Maternal health.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Checklist
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Violence / prevention & control