Researching Children’s Experiences of Parental Stalking: Challenges in Conducting an Online Survey on a Sensitive Topic Involving Children and Young People


In this case study, we focus on the collection of data on a sensitive research topic, namely, postseparation parental stalking of children and young people. We are interested in how these people experience parental stalking, particularly in cases where the father or stepfather stalks the mother after separation. We focus on conducting an online survey targeted at young people (aged 13–18) that was part of a larger, mixed-methods research project, and we reflect on the challenges and steps in conducting the survey. Our case study shows that data collection through an online survey on a sensitive topic includes epistemological, social, and judicial challenges. Having carefully planned the survey with experts possessing various types of expertise, only two young persons eventually responded to our survey. Although our online survey did not bear fruit, the survey as a whole increased our understanding of the vagueness of postseparation parental stalking as a phenomenon and the difficulty of recognizing it even if frontline professionals are involved in the process. The case study gives insight into the behind-the-scene processes of conducting research and into the failures and emotions that a researcher may face during the research process. Our research project has concretely shown that conducting a study is a learning process where the journey from planning to data collection is just as important as the research findings and conclusions drawn from them.

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