Conducting sensitive research with disabled women who experience domestic abuse during pregnancy: Lessons from a qualitative study

Jenna Breckenridge, John Devaney, Fiona Duncan, Thilo Kroll, Anne Lazenbatt, Julie Taylor, Caroline Bradbury-Jones

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This research-methods case study shares some practical and methodological reflections on doing sensitive research with participants who are typically underrepresented. We focus specifically on the challenges researchers facing during recruitment and data collection. We reflect on the opportunities and challenges created by engaging with gatekeepers to access “hard to reach groups,“ particularly within the context of sensitive research. We also offer practical examples and solutions to help ensure that research interviews are conducted in an accessible and inclusive way. These challenges and solutions are illustrated by examples from a recently completed research project on how domestic abuse affects disabled women’s access to maternity care. Disabled women (women with a long-term health condition or impairment) are at significantly higher risk of experiencing domestic abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse from an intimate partner) than nondisabled women. Pregnancy is a particularly vulnerable period for all women experiencing domestic abuse, but internationally, very few studies have explored how domestic abuse affects disabled mothers. Both disability and domestic abuse are associated with late or poor access to maternity services, and the aim of our study was to understand the particular barriers and facilitators to accessing care when disability and domestic abuse coexist. The study took place during 2012-2014 and involved three phases: a systematic review, interviews with women, and focus groups with maternity care practitioners. The learning from our study is relevant and useful to anyone planning and doing sensitive research with underrepresented populations.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherSAGE Publications
ISBN (Electronic)9781473989139
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2016

Publication series

NameSage Research Methods Cases Part 2
PublisherSAGE Publications


  • sensitive research
  • hard to reach
  • sampling
  • inclusive research
  • domestic abuse
  • disability


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