Beyond the RCT: Integrating Rigor and Relevance to Evaluate the Outcomes of Domestic Violence Programs

American Journal of Evaluation, Vol. 39, Issue 1

Posted: 16 May 2018

See all articles by Lisa Goodman

Lisa Goodman

Boston College

Deborah Epstein

Georgetown University Law Center

Cris Sullivan

Michigan State University - Department of Psychology

Date Written: 2018

Abstract

Programs for domestic violence (DV) victims and their families have grown exponentially over the last four decades. The evidence demonstrating the extent of their effectiveness, however, often has been criticized as stemming from studies lacking scientific rigor. A core reason for this critique is the widespread belief that credible evidence can derive only from research grounded in randomized control trials (RCTs). Although the RCT method has its strengths, we argue that it is rarely an optimal — or even a possible — approach for evaluating multifaceted DV programs. This article reviews the reasons that RCT is a poor fit for such programs and argues that a more inclusive conceptualization of credible evidence is critical to expanding our knowledge base about how DV programs affect survivors’ safety and well-being.

Keywords: randomized control trials, program evaluation, outcomes, domestic violence, intimate partner violence

Suggested Citation

Goodman, Lisa and Epstein, Deborah and Sullivan, Cris, Beyond the RCT: Integrating Rigor and Relevance to Evaluate the Outcomes of Domestic Violence Programs (2018). American Journal of Evaluation, Vol. 39, Issue 1, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3148261

Lisa Goodman

Boston College ( email )

140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
United States

Deborah Epstein (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9640 (Phone)

Cris Sullivan

Michigan State University - Department of Psychology ( email )

East Lansing, MI 48823
United States

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