Case 4. Research on Intimate Partner
Violence and the Duty to Protect
Dr. Daniela Yeung, a community psychologist, has been conducting a federally funded
ethnographic study of men’s attitudes toward intimate partner violence following
conviction and release from prison for spousal abuse. Over the course of a year, she has
had individual monthly interviews with 25 participants while they were in jail and
following their release. Aiden, a 35-year-old male parolee convicted of seriously injuring
his wife, has been interviewed by Dr. Yeung on eight occasions. The interviews have
covered a range of personal topics including Aiden’s problem drinking, which is
marked by blackouts and threatening phone calls made to his parents and girlfriend
when he becomes drunk, usually in the evening. To her knowledge, Aiden has never
followed through on these threats. It is clear that Aiden feels very comfortable discussing
his life with Dr. Yeung. One evening Dr. Yeung checks her answering machine and
finds a message from Aiden. His words are slurred and angry: “Now that you know the
truth about what I am you know that there is nothing you can do to help the evil inside
me. The bottle is my savior and I will end this with them tonight.” Each time she calls
Aiden’s home phone she gets a busy signal.
Dr. Yeung has Aiden’s address, and after 2 hours, she is considering whether or
not to contact emergency services to go to Aiden’s home or to the homes of his
parents and girlfriend.
Appelbaum, P., & Rosenbaum, A. (1989). Tarasoff and the researcher: Does the duty to
protect apply in the research setting? American Psychologist, 44(6), 885–894.
Fisher, C. B., Oransky, M., Mahadevan, M., Singer, M., Mirhej, G., & Hodge, G. D. (2009). Do
drug abuse researchers have a duty to protect third parties from HIV transmission?
Moral perspectives of street drug users. In D. Buchanan, C. B. Fisher, & L. Gable (Eds.),
Research with high-risk populations: Balancing science, ethics, and law (pp. 189–206).
Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Gable, L. (2009). Legal challenges raised by non-intervention research conducted under
high-risk circumstances. In D. Buchanan, C. B. Fisher, & L. Gable (Eds.). Research with
high-risk populations: Balancing science, ethics, and law (pp. 47–74). Washington, DC:
American Psychological Association.
Jordan, C. E., Campbell, R., & Follingstad, D. (2010). Violence and women’s mental health:
The impact of physical, sexual, & psychological aggression. Annual Review of Clinical
Psychology, 6, 607–628.