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Social Workers’ Responsibility in Research

Although ethics are highly dependable on the context and the values, there are some guiding principles, which distinguish ethical behavior from inappropriate conduct. The social worker in Parker’s case has violated the standard of Voluntary Informed Consent, according to which participants agree to participate “by choice, not because of coercion or intimidation or because of promises of rewards” (Myers et al. 2004, p. 9).

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The social worker explicitly used money reward as a motivating tool to persuade her client to take part in the research (Laureate Education, 2013). Thus, there was a direct violation of ethical standards by a social worker.

Instead of manipulating the client, the social worker could have relied on some strategies employed by researchers to ensure the mental and physical safety of test subjects. Firstly, Labott and Johnson (2004) write that “a study should be designed in the safest manner and procedures should be in place to manage ant problems that do occur” (p. 11).

The social worker disregarded it, by asking Parker not to worry about any possible encroachment on her life (Laureate Education, 2013). Secondly, a proper informed consent would involve the social worker clearly describe the risks and benefits, while in reality, it was the client who realized there would be invasion of her privacy.

There is a number of obligations and responsibilities pertaining to social workers. In Parker’s case, the major problem is consent, which was not taken appropriately. Particularly, Myers et al. (2004) point out that “informed consent should include information about the nature, extent, and duration of the participation requested and disclosure of the risks and benefits in the research” (p. 12). If the social worker had genuinely considered her responsibility, she would have explained the details of the study, articulated the necessity to involve her client and underscored the lack of any feasible alternative.

Although the idea that using vulnerable individuals is unethical in itself is in line with the principles of social workers’ responsibilities, it does propel a question how such individuals should be approached. It is evident that Ms. Parker feels discomfort at the idea of other people invading her privacy.

Yet, at the same time, the social worker promises compensation, to which the client ultimately agrees. In my opinion, compensating research participants is a solid practice that takes into account their weaknesses and possible mental damage. It should also be noted that Ms. Parker agreed herself. The social worker may have been applied too much pressure on the client, yet the decision was made by the client life (Plummer et al., 2014). In this case, the compensation does not have any real effect on voluntary compensation as it was the social worker’s pressure that persuaded the client to participate.

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Regarding the protection of special populations, this issue raises a dilemma of acquiring the necessary data to help these categories. Ries (2007) dedicated a research studying infants and their mothers for a correlation between environmental conditions and health problems. Evidently, the test subjects are vulnerable individuals, yet, without the sufficient biological samples, there would be no medical solutions and effective treatment for this population.

In essence, the research regulations are enough to protect it because the study had the problem of selecting test subjects. At the same time, I think it would be wise to reduce current research protections for two reasons. The first one is that it will enable more research and subsequent scientific advances. Secondly, all participants will be compensated for any physical and mental damage that may happen because of the research.


Labott, S. M., & Johnson, T. P. (2004). Psychological and social risks of behavioral research. IRB: Ethics & Human Research, 26(3), 11–15.

Laureate Education. (Producer). (2013). Parker Family [Video File]. In Sessions. Web.

Myers, L. L., Yegidis, B. L., Weinbach, R. (2018). Research methods for social workers. Pearson.

Plummer, S. B., Makris, S., & Brocksen, S. M. (Eds.). (2014). Sessions: Case histories. Retrieved from Baltimore, MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing.

Ries, N. M. (2007). Growing up as a research subject: ethical and legal issues in birth cohort studies involving genetic research. Health LJ, 15, 1-41.

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