Conducting research about sensitive subjects: The case of homeless youth

Silvia Helena Koller, Marcela Raffaelli, Gustavo Carlo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is growing interest and importance in addressing the logistical and ethical challenges of conducting research with disenfranchised populations, including homeless and working street youth. Drawing upon established international standards on human rights, we review legal and ethical codes for research on disenfranchised populations established by national and international research and professional organizations. Then we explore how university-based researchers can apply these standards to children and adolescents growing up in situations characterized by physical and psychological neglect, lack of adult supervision, limited protection from local law enforcement, and drug use and violence. We reflect upon on our experiences in conducting research with vulnerable Brazilian youth to illustrate the challenges of implementing ethical guidelines in real-world situations and propose possible solutions to ethical dilemmas encountered in the field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-65
Number of pages11
JournalUniversitas Psychologica
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2012


  • Ethical issues
  • Homeless
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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