Although the use of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) can improve the validity of research results, it is not without complications. Practitioners and researchers commonly cite six concerns about RCTs:
These concerns need to be addressed before deciding that an RCT is the best method to evaluate a specific program. Collaboration and funding might help alleviate some discomfort with this design. However, if concerns for victim safety and privacy remain high, then using alternative methods might be warranted.
[note 1] Campbell, Jacquelyn C., Daniel Webster, Jane Koziol-McLain, Carolyn Block, Doris Campbell, Mary Ann Curry, Faye Gary, Nancy Glass, Judith McFarlane, Carolyn Sachs, Phyllis Sharps, Yvonne Ulrich, Susan A. Wilt, Jennifer Manganello, Xiao Xu, Janet Schollenberger, Victoria Frye, and Kathryn Laughon, "Risk Factors for Femicide in Abusive Relationships: Results from a Multisite Case Control Study,"
American Journal of Public Health 93 (7) (2003): 1089-1097.
[note 2] Weisburd, David, "Ethical Practice and Evaluation of Interventions in Crime and Justice: The Moral Imperative for Randomized Trials,"
Evaluation Review 27 (3) (2003): 336-354.
[note 3] Bennett, Larry, Stephanie Riger, Paul Schewe, April Howard, and Sharon Wasco,
"Effectiveness of Hotline, Advocacy, Counseling, and Shelter Services for Victims of Domestic Violence: A Statewide Evaluation"
Journal of Interpersonal Violence 19 (7) (2004): 815-829.
[note 4] This, itself, might affect the results: If the treatment is more effective for victims who are more at risk, then using a pool of less vulnerable victims will likely dull the treatment impact seen in the study. Such concerns should, of course, be weighed against the need to protect the safety of the victim. See Labriola, Melissa, Michael Rempel, and Robert Carl Davis, "Testing the Effectiveness of Batterer Programs and Judicial Monitoring: Results From a Randomized Trial at the Bronx Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Court" (pdf, 127 pages), New York, N.Y.: Center for Court Innovation, November 2005, NCJ 245144.
[note 5] Feder, Lynette, Phyllis Holditch Niolon, Jacquelyn Campbell, Jan Wallinder, Robin Nelson, and Hattie Larrouy, "The Need for Experimental Methodology in Intimate Partner Violence: Finding Programs That Effectively Prevent IPV,"
Violence Against Women 17 (3) (2011): 340-358.
[note 6] Labriola, Rempel, and Davis, "Testing the Effectiveness of Batterer Programs and Judicial Monitoring: Results From a Randomized Trial at the Bronx Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Court."
[note 7] Olds, David L., Charles R. Henderson, Jr., Robert Tatelbaum, and Robert Chamberlin, "Improving the Life-Course Development of Socially Disadvantaged Mothers: A Randomized Trial of Nurse Home Visitation,"
American Journal of Public Health 78 (11) (1988): 1436-1445.
[note 8] Sherman, Lawrence W., and Richard A. Berk, "The Specific Deterrent Effects of Arrest for Domestic Assault,"
American Sociological Review 49 (8) (1984): 261-272; Sullivan, Cris M., "Evaluating Domestic Violence Support Service Programs: Waste of Time, Necessary Evil, or Opportunity for Growth?"
Aggression and Violent Behavior 16 (4) (2011): 354-360.
[note 9] Labriola, Rempel, and Davis,
Testing the Effectiveness of Batterer Programs and Judicial Monitoring: Results From a Randomized Trial at the Bronx Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Court.
[note 10] Lum, Cynthia, and Sue-Ming Yang, "Why Do Evaluation Researchers in Crime and Justice Choose Non-Experimental Methods?"
Journal of Experimental Criminology 1 (2) (2005): 191-213.