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Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Tracing ex-service users via social media in social research: The mechanics and.

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Presentation on theme: "Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Tracing ex-service users via social media in social research: The mechanics and."— Presentation transcript:

1 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Tracing ex-service users via social media in social research: The mechanics and ethics of following up a hard-to-reach population Professor Helen Masson November 28 th 2013

2 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Title of the overall project: Recidivism, desistance and life course trajectories of young sexual abusers. An in-depth follow-up study, 10 years on Two year ESRC funded study RES Members of the research team: – Professor Simon Hackett and Ms Josie Phillips, Durham University; – Professor Helen Masson and Dr Myles Balfe, University of Huddersfield.

3 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Some background Work with children and young people with sexual behaviour problems – an emerging field since the 1990s; Some research studies on recidivism rates but these are problematic in various respects; Little in-depth research in the UK or internationally on the longer term developmental trajectories of this population; Why is such research important?

4 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) The challenges we faced How to trace and make contact sensitively with individual adults many years after known to services when children; No previous experience of following up this population; How much time and resources would be needed? Might internet-based tools help?

5 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Lessons from previous tracing studies Attempts to track individuals in longitudinal public health research reasonably successful; But not all populations equally traceable – three populations especially tricky; Traditional and more recent sources of information: – Dates of birth; last known addresses; contact information for family and friends; court records; electoral registers; death records; – Via the internet – Google searches; Commercial databases such as Peoplechaser.co.uk, 192.com; Social Networking sites.

6 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Overall aim of the project: To describe and analyse the experiences and life circumstances of adults who, in their childhoods, were subject to professional interventions because of their sexually abusive behaviours, and to consider the implications of these experiences for policy and service delivery.

7 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) 4 stages of data collection: Stage 1 – Data collected from historical case files on 700 young people - see Papers C, E and G in end reference list; Stage 2 – ‘information rich’ cases sampled per service (reflecting the range of cases dealt with) – resulting in 117 cases for tracing (111 males and 6 females);

8 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) 4 stages continued: Stage 3 – Attempting to trace ex service users using publically available data sources - the subject of this seminar - see Paper B in end reference list; Stage 4 – Direct contact made with individuals - See papers D, F and the Durham briefing.

9 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Getting the project off the ground Building partnerships with 8 organisations: – Two large vol. children’s charities with multiple services nationally; – Specialist team within a LA Social Services Department; – An NHS based service; – 4 private sector services. Providing information; Obtaining agreement in principle.

10 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Working ethically Safe, secure and confidential storage of any data; Informed consent of participants; Anonymity of subjects assured except in exceptional circumstances; Doing no harm and providing support; i.e. ‘Rules of conduct’ for the research – e.g. BPS and BSA Codes of Ethical Human Research.

11 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Complying with Data Protection requirements: Data Protection Act 1998 – UK coverage; Applies to virtually all data collected which identifies a living individual (until personal identifiers removed); Underpinning principles clear but, overall, the DP ‘package’ is complex and convoluted, even for experts; See guides for organisations such as MRS/SRA (2013) Guidelines for Social Research.

12 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Ethical approval required from: The ESRC (before funding granted); Subsequently, from: Our respective universities; Each of the partner organisations (NB varying processes and time-consuming); Loss of the NHS site and LA service along the way.

13 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Getting down to fieldwork: Services varied in their ‘research culture’; General issues around secondary analysis of pre-existing data; Practical resources; Ongoing Data Protection considerations.

14 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Stage 3 - Method of Tracing Acknowledgement – all credit to Dr. Myles Balfe, our IT expert and social networking guru! Based on key contact information (albeit 10 years old plus) from case files, each individual searched via Bebo, MySpace, Facebook, Friends Reunited and the UK electoral register using the commercial sites Tracesmart (now Peoplechaser) and 192.com; Same approach used to search each case; Identified criteria for judging a case as located; Key importance of ensuring data security.

15 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Results Found up-to-date information on 81 out of 117 cases (69%) and of the six females we searched for we found 5 (83%); Facebook and the electoral register were the most successful searching tools; Some individuals located through more than one source; However, of the 81 cases found, 26 (31%) were found solely on social network sites and not on the electoral register.

16 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Stage 4 - Making contact The service that had worked with the individual made first contact either via Facebook or land mail; Great care taken as regards the content of the messages or letters sent; 65% of those contacted agreed to face-to-face interviews, telephone conversations or correspondence. Securing informed consent.

17 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Reactions to being contacted: Surprise at being contacted ‘out of the blue’; Some anxiety, one hostile response; Facebook approach preferred; A mix of narrative and semi-structured interviewing + a range of questionnaires; Overwhelmingly positive reaction to having the chance to tell their story, to express their points of view. Given a voice.

18 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Reflections and issues Social network sites can be used effectively; Facebook and the electoral register were the most successful tools; Importance of searching for individuals and family members BUT be careful about indirect contact via family members; Many accessed Facebook through smart phones, iphones plus computers – none had a landline – and many had moved home.

19 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Implications for Services Promoting a research culture – resources; responsibilities under DP legislation? Routine gathering of informed consent? Processes for considering research proposals? Issues of archiving and secure storage of closed cases? Facilities for research? See Journal of Sexual Aggression article (Paper A in the end reference list).

20 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Further ethical issues to consider: Information on social network sites is publically available and individuals can set privacy settings BUT legitimate concerns about their use; Put support systems in place for the subjects of the research; The issue of gifts.

21 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) Final comments - New technologies, health and social care practice and research Using new technologies in a range of ways in health, social work and social care practice and research; Using new technologies to maintain contacts with service users, e.g. The ChildLine experience; Social researchers should attend to 21 st century means of communication as it develops, BUT should use it with great care and sensitivity.

22 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) References A. Masson, H., Myles, B., Hackett, S. and Phillips, S. (2011) Making use of historical case material – the problems of looking back and the implications for service developments in relation to research and evaluation activities, in Journal of Sexual Aggression, Vol 18 (1): pages B. Masson, H., Balfe, M., Hackett, S. and Phillips, J. (2013) Lost without a Trace? Social Networking and Social Research with a Hard-to-Reach Population, British Journal of Social Work, 43 (1): C. Hackett, S., Balfe, M., Masson, H. and Phillips, J. Family responses to young people who have sexually abused: Anger, ambivalence and acceptance, Children and Society, published in Early View on September 3 rd, 2012, DOI: /j x D. Masson, H., Hackett, S., Phillips, J. and Balfe, M. (2012) Developmental markers or risk and vulnerability? Young females who sexually abuse – characteristics, backgrounds, behaviours and outcomes, Child and Family Social Work, published in Early View on December 11 th 2012, DOI: /cfs.12050

23 Institute for Research in Citizenship and Applied Human Sciences (IRCAHS) References continued E. Hackett, S., Masson, H., Balfe, M. and Phillips, J. Individual, family and abuse characteristics of 700 British child and adolescent sexual abusers, Child Abuse Review, published in Early View on February 27 th 2013, DOI: /car.2246 F. Masson, H., Hackett, S., Phillips, J. and Balfe, M. Looking back on the long-term fostering and adoption of children with harmful sexual behaviours: Carers’ reflections on their experiences, British Journal of Social Work, published in Advance Access on April 3 rd 2013, DOI: /bjsw/bct073 G. Hackett, S., Masson, H., Balfe, M. and Phillips, J. Community reactions to young people who have sexually abused and their families: A shotgun blast, not a rifle shot’, Children and Society (in press)


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